Kentucky is blessed with acres and acres of lush woodlands, some 80 percent to 90 percent of it in individual hands.
The 467,000 private owners should know that land needs tending, said Billy Thomas, an extension forester at the University of Kentucky.
"Just because they are green," he said, "it doesn't mean everything is OK."
Strolling through a wooded glen, it would be easy to think it had existed, untouched, for eons, but Thomas said "the simple fact of doing nothing is really not an option anymore. Woodlands are very dynamic, and they are always changing," he said. Wildfires, invasive plants and insects are all a threat.
Never miss a local story.
To help owners learn to manage their property most effectively, the forestry extension office is offering a daylong course Aug. 25 in Bagdad, northwest of Frankfort. This is the third workshop the office has offered this summer; others were in Benton and Williamsburg.
When people own woodlands, he said, they owe it to themselves and society to help it thrive.
Well-managed property can produce maximum and sustained profits from the timber, he said. It also helps wildlife prosper and keep soil in place. More and more, he said, people are seeking out woodlands for outdoor recreation or tourism.
Thomas said the course can help owners learn the economic potential of their woodlands, how to keep them healthy and how to tap into resources that can help them maintain their land.
"A big part of this is learning who can help them," he said. "So many people don't realize that there are so many organizations that can help."
Too often, he said, people wait to reach out to experts until an invasive plant, like bush honeysuckle, has taken over a property or they are getting ready to sell their timber. Then, he said, "a lot of times it is too late."
Thomas said the course also will help owners learn how to best protect their property from theft. There is a lot of theft of trees in rural areas of the state, where there are absentee landowners. One tree, he said, "could be worth thousands of dollars."
But even knowing one tree from another, a topic addressed in the seminar, can be a challenge for owners.
He said the course was devised after years of research because it was clear woodlands owners were not as informed about their land as they needed to be. He said there are often grants or subsidies available to help landowners follow through on best practices for managing their acreage.
"It was obvious that we needed to get information out to those folks," he said.