Kansas Forest Service had a direct impact of almost $25 million on the state's economy in 2010, according to research from the Bureau of Business Research, part of the University of Nebraska's Department of Economics.
The impact included only those benefits that could be measured and included tax revenues, forestry-related jobs land $8.8 million in wages. Its study included the economic impacts of the state forestry agencies in the Dakotas and Nebraska. For cost-benefit comparisons, the bureau also assessed the agencies in states such as Colorado, Missouri and Ohio.
"The surprise for me was the value of the public benefits we achieved. Again based on credible research, the bureau translated that impact into an additional $6.3 million – mostly related to our conserving the state's money and other resources," said State Forester Larry Biles.
It reported Kansas foresters were doing an equal job with less money. And, they were extending their efforts beyond the expected programs in conservation trees, riparian plantings, wildlife habitat, Arbor Day, Tree City USA and agroforestry.
For example, the foresters' Cooperative Fire Protection Program targets rural towns and the volunteer firefighters who protect the majority of the state's land area.
Kansas foresters help those firefighters connect to cost-share programs, as well as to reconditioned federal vehicles and donated equipment. The foresters will develop a no-cost, written Master Fire Plan for counties or departments. They regularly offer training courses and related resources on fighting wildfires.
The Bureau of Business Research said those activities provided one-year and long–run benefits. Compared to other states' training, the Kansas service also saved about $50 per firefighter. With 922 volunteers going through training last year, this translated into an important benefit in terms of skills and knowledge, as well as an initial savings of $46,100.
"It's gratifying to be recognized by such a respected group. To me, however, we're just reflecting our prairie pioneer heritage – work hard, be frugal and always strive for quality," Biles said.
Kansas has 5.2 million acres of forests and other trees.