|The LSU AgCenter provides forest landowners with educational opportunities to help them manage their timber resources for profit and sustainability. Louisiana has more than 140,000 nonindustrial private landowners owning 67 percent of the forest land in the state.
Four LSU AgCenter area forestry agents offer forestry education through forums, trade shows, educational materials, field tours, personal visits and youth programs. They are Brian Chandler in Clinton, Barry Crain in Alexandria, Steve Hotard in Calhoun and Ricky Kilpatrick in Shreveport.
The area foresters serve as front-line forces for the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources providing assistance to landowners, homeowners, non-governmental organizations, interest groups and local governmental officials. Also, they bring together expertise from around the state, region and country to educate local stakeholders regarding resource management and care.
Work in urban and shade tree care is perhaps where most requests for assistance and information originate. Issues surrounding wood products, whether originating from homeowners concerned about wood damage or companies seeking assistance regarding wood utilization, continue to grow in importance in the state.
Invasive species that affect Louisiana economically and environmentally are coming more into the forefront of thought among Louisiana’s leadership in natural resource management, government agencies and officials. In addition, area agents develop numerous programs with schools. They cooperate with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Forestry Association, private industry foresters, USDA Forestry Service and others to instill a desire to learn about forestry among youth.
For example, in central Louisiana there is an annual Forest Awareness Week targeting youth in the fifth grade. Professionals provide guided tours through the forest with stops along the way for lessons to be conducted. Because of the success of Forest Awareness Week in central Louisiana, the program has been expanded to include more than 15 parishes in this state.
In northwest Louisiana, the area agent trains teachers and others on how to use the Project Learning Tree educational materials. Students learn to apply scientific and mathematical principles in a fun way. Recently, a fifth grade teacher at Oil City Elementary School, Brenda Smith, received national recognition as an outstanding educator who uses the Project Learning Tree material.
In northeast Louisiana, nearly 1,000 fourth grade students attended the 2006 AgAlley exhibit, which was part of the Ag Expo in Monroe. The students learned about the products made from trees, benefits of growing trees and the importance of sustaining forest resources. Also, about 8,500 residents from the area walked through the AgAlley forestry display.
South Louisiana was hit hard by the hurricanes in 2005. The area agents quickly met with other agencies and industry to plan educational programs to inform landowners about assistance programs, tax incentives, fire control, the importance of harvesting downed timber, the need to replant and other practices to get the land back in timber production.
Agents and specialists play a vital role in working with these groups regarding forestry, ecology and environmental issues as well as long-term management of natural resources.
(This article was published in the spring 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)