Ricky's retiring after 33 years

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

Ricky Kilpatrick, longtime LSU Extension Service Forester, will retire after 33 years of service. Ricky actually wore three hats during his tenure in Bossier Parish with the LSU Extension Service; his first hat was working with forest landowners in the area. Secondly, he worked all those years with Project Learning Tree; and thirdly, he worked with the 4-H Forestry Skill students who competed in the State Tournaments and the National 4-H Forestry Skills in West Virginia.

"This job as area forester was my dream job of all time," Ricky told the Piney Woods Journal. "I was so eager to go to work, it never seemed like I was actually working because I was always doing things I loved to do." "My favorite part of my job was working with forestland owners and going out on their land to help them properly manage their timber. There is nothing like, as most foresters will tell you, being outdoors on a tract of timber. It was always an exhilarating experience to be working in the woods." "My second favorite part of my job, by just a little bit, was working Project Learning Tree (PLT). I seemed to be able to always able to arrange a field trip for the students of the school I was working with out in the woods. That is quite an experience in itself to be out in the woods with kids that are asking you a hundred questions about what they are seeing."

"My wife, Cindi, was a school teacher at Oil City elementary school. This was a great boost to my PLT program," Ricky, a native of West Monroe explained. "She became sold on the project as soon as she saw it; so she helped me refine and polish it up to be in line with what teachers could present to their students." "Cindi and I have had some great moments over the last 33 years working with PLT. After she retired she began to working directly with PLT through a grant program. It is a great feeling to see kids come to realize how important forestry is to our economy and science. Out in the woods is a great place for the kids to learn about our environment and the huge role that trees play in the health of our environment." "My third favorite thing about my job was working with the 4-H Forestry Skills team each year. This made my area Forester job truly a dream job.' Each summer we would take our state 4-H Forestry Skills team to the National 4-H Invitational competition in West Viriginia. We usually carried the kids rafting down one of the fast moving mountain rivers. It was awesome duty." Ricky started his job as area Forester in Northwest Louisiana in 1985 during the middle of the Southern Pine Beetle epedemic.

"That was truly baptism under fire for me into the forest industry," Ricky, a graduate of both the LSU School of Forestry and the University of Georgia, noted. "It was a worst case scenario in that there was not much that could be done to protect forest land from the Pine Beetle, except cut down trees." "The small land owners were hit very heavy during this beetle outbreak in 1985. If the Beetles got into an adjacent tract owned by the Forest Service or a timber company, the small landowner didn't have enough acreage to cut a buffer zone round their property. I remember that the National Guard was called in to just cut trees down in the Wilderness Area of the Kisatchie National Forest."

Ricky was known in forestry circles for his many forestry focused workshops for landowners and stakeholders. He published Timber Tales, a quarterly publication keeping forest landowners up to date on the latest developments in the forest industry. Also, Ricky held the anual Ark-La-Tex Forestry Forum in the Shreveport area, usually in March.

In 2015, Ricky was selected as Extension Forester of the Year by the National Forest Landowners Association, an advocacy group for forestry.

"Early on in my teenage years I had a good idea of what I wanted career wise. My dream was for any type outdoors job that would make an impact with other people. I could not have asked for a better job to fulfill my dream than what I got after graduating with a Master's degree in Forestry from the University of Georgia."

"My academic career started at NLU after graduating from West Monroe High School. After a couple years at NLU, I transferred to the Forestry School at LSU. After getting my first degree, I headed to the University of Georgia to study under a professor of forestry whose work that I admired highly; but unfortunately he died a few weeks before I enrolled. I realized that he hadseveral people in the Forestry Department that he mentored so it was a good choice for me."

"After graduating with my Master's Degree, I applied for the job that I now have," Ricky pointed out. "What has surprised both my wife and me is how the 33 years have passed so swiftly." "As for retirement, about the only thing I know for sure is that we will continue to be involved in Project Learning Tree in some manner," Ricky said in conclusion. "It has been a wonderful 33 years helping the forest industry in northwest Louisi.ana."