Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Zeb Weese gives advice on how to keep natural areas at church's first Environmental Action Forum

By Leah Sharp
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Midway resident Zeb Weese, coordinator of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, discussed how to manage Kentucky’s natural areas during the first Environmental Action Forum at the Midway Presbyterian Church on the night of Jan. 21.

Zeb Weese discussed Kentucky's natural areas during the first
Environmental Action Forum Jan. 21. (Photo by Leah Sharp)
Weese, a conservation biologist, told the group that about 727 species are endangered in Kentucky. That appeared to shock the crowd of 23, judging from their facial expressions.

As an example of how an endangered species can become extinct, he cited the American chestnut tree, only a few of which remain due to a blight imported from Asia.

“Chestnuts are gone forever,” Weese said. “No matter what kind of management we do they are not coming back.”

Weese discouraged his audience from using fallen trees for firewood, suggesting that a dead tree should stay put.  “It is meant to rot,” he said, adding that this would help keep natural areas natural without really having to do much.

Weese demonstrated how citizens could work together to manage the natural areas remaining in Kentucky, which is heavily privately owned. “Less than 7.5 percent of Kentucky is state or federally protected,” he said, noting the limited funding for the state to help owners manage woodlands, which cover more than 40 percent of the state.

That is much less than in the 1800s, when Kentucky looked much different than it does today, Weese said. He explained that while driving we see “tons of trees,” but the forests on the roadsides “only last a couple feet. Behind those trees are neighborhoods.”

Weese earnestly suggested that citizens work on small parts at a time. “If you focus on a small area it is easier to keep up rather than a big area to later on give up,” he said.

The church has scheduled four more environmental forums. The next one, on Feb. 18, will be conducted by Dr. Joshua Adkins, whose topic will be “Bugs and Weeds: Invasive Species and Aquatic Systems.”

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