Conservation art, writing contest winners announced

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Taylor County Conservation District recently announced the winners of the Jim Claypool Conservation Art and Writing Contest for 2012.

The theme was "Kentucky's Forests, Branching Out." All Kentucky students in grades six through their senior year of high school are eligible to compete in the writing contest. Only students in first through fifth grade can compete in the art contest.

The District wanted to honor the teachers in the county this year, so a new feature was added to the contest this year. Each teacher of the first-place school winner received $50 to spend on supplies for their classroom.

County awards are as follows. First place in the county receives a $40 cash award and runner-up receives $30. First place in each school receives a $30 cash award, second receives $20 and third $10. Classroom winners receive a $10 cash prize.

Certificates of achievement are given to winners in all categories. The first-, second- and third-place winners in each school also receive a T-shirt featuring the contest theme. The Taylor County Conservation District provides all cash prizes and T-shirts.

Co-sponsors of the contest are Kentucky Farm Bureau and the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.

Regional winners receive a $50 check. State winners receive a $250 check for first place, $150 for second place and $50 for third. County level winners receive a $25 check. State and regional winners will receive a personalized plaque and certificate.

This year, there were 254 written entries submitted from two participating schools. Samuel Kessler, a seventh-grade student at Campbellsville Middle School, is the county winner. His writing entry is printed as a sidebar to this story. His parents are Dr. Richie and Sonya Kessler. His teacher is Kayla Stockton.

County runner-up in the writing contest is Simone Nicole Siercks, a sixth-grade student at Taylor County Middle School. Her grandparents are Omega and Gloria Taylor and her teacher is Shea White.

There were 403 art entries submitted from three participating schools. County winner is Yuika Hanada, a fourth-grade student at Campbellsville Elementary School. Her parents are Takehisa and Miki Hanada and her teacher is Garnetta Murrell. Her poster is printed with this story. County runner-up in the art contest is Allie Hancock, a third-grade student at Taylor County Elementary School, the daughter of Casey and Jennifer Hancock. Her teacher is Brandi Graham.

School winners are as follows:

Writing Winners

• Campbellsville Middle School - First place and county winner, Samuel Kessler; second place Blair Lamb and third place, Jackson Hinton.

• Taylor County Middle School - First place and county runner-up, Simone Nicole Siercks; second place, Micah Lauer and third place, Micah King.

Art Winners

• Campbellsville Elementary School - First place and county winner, Yuika Hanada; second place, Jovi Bowen and third place, Clark Kidwell.

• Taylor County Elementary School - First place and county runner-up, Allie Hancock; second place, Sky Turner and third place, Bella Long.

• Campbellsville Middle School - First place, Lauryn Agathen; second place, Tahler Franklin and third place, Gracyne Hash.

Classroom Winners

• Campbellsville Elementary - Art Contest - Yuika Hanada, Hassan Alabusalim, Chloe Newton, Clark Kidwell, Zaquan Cowan, Adrianna Celis, Brianna Hayes, Jovi Bowen, Diego Noyola, Layla Steen, Leo Lamer, Blake Settle, Seth Hash, Seth Ford, Jack Sabo, Carly Adams, Gabrielle Tucker, Makayla Thompson, Laci Hodgens. and Caylynn Smith.

• Campbellsville Middle School - Art Contest - Tahler Franklin, Gracynne Hash and Lauryn Agathen.

• Taylor County Elementary - Art Contest - Whitley Houchens, Allie Hancock, Blake Patton, Kylee Bardin, Justice Perry, Bella Long, Adelina Silva, Logan Benningfield, Matthew Hunt and Sky Turner.

• Taylor County Middle School - Writing Contest - Micah King, Micah Lauer, Simone Nicole Siercks and McKenzie Cox.

• Campbellsville Middle School - Writing Contest - Rebekah Cowherd, Peyton Reynolds, Jackson Hinton, Alex Doss, Bryce Richardson, Samuel Kessler, Blair Lamb, Murphy Lamb, Kayla Atkinson and Reagan Knight.

Saving Kentucky's Forests

Samuel Kessler

The birds are singing, the leaves are rustling and the river is gently flowing. You are in Kentucky's forest.

About 12 million acres, or 47 percent, of Kentucky's landscape is covered in forest. Of this, about 11.6 million acres are classifies as timberland. This means that timber companies are able to continuously cut down Kentucky's trees potentially causing a serious threat to Kentucky's forest.

Along with logging, Kentucky's forests are also threatened with pollution and climate change, among other things. But don't be dismayed, there are many things you can do to help stop these threats.

Water Pollution

There are many biologically diverse rivers and streams meandering through Kentucky's forests. The forest helps keep the water clean by filtering out pollution such as agricultural chemicals or sediment from poor logging practices.

Our streams are threatened by such pollution and the organisms that depend on this water can directly be affected by sickness and disease. This includes you and me!

To help stop this pollution, you can encourage farmers to restore native bottomland forests between their pesticide-sprayed crops and the river or stream.

You can also plant trees or work to preserve existing forests along Kentucky's forest ecosystem if you help stop pollution at the source!

Commercial and Private Logging

Another threat to Kentucky's forest ecosystem is poor logging practices. Many companies excessively log trees in Kentucky by clear cutting the forest or taking only the best trees and by planting back only one species which hurts the biodiversity benefit of the forest.

What can you do to help? Encourage timberland owners to selectively cut trees to save the environment. Horse logging is an example of how timber can be cut while leaving many important trees and doing little damage to the forest. You can also donate money for forest reserves to make sue that timber companies will not take all of Kentucky's forests.

You can plant trees to help make up for trees lost in the logging process. These practices are all example of sustainable forestry. According to the Kentucky Forest Owner's Handbook the benefits of sustainable forest management are many and they include providing revenue from timber or other forest products, enhancing biodiversity, protecting water quality, and providing a scenic environment. There are many ways you can help prevent excessive logging in Kentucky.

Climate Change

Kentucky is constantly changing. If you were to sit back and observe the sky, you would probably notice a change in the weather. The climate is also changing along with the weather due to greenhouse gases and ozone from burning fossil fuels and other products. This is causing the world to get warmer.

Because of this increase in temperature some plant species like the kudzu vine, which doesn't normally live in Kentucky are able to thrive and may even be taking over Kentucky's native species in forest ecosystems.

According to Dr. Richard Kessler, biology professor at Campbellsville University, these changes can also make our native species weaker and more subject to diseases like sudden-oak death or pests such as the emerald ash borer.

Despite this fact, it is not too late! You can help! All you have to do is plant native species around your house or land and you can make a difference.

If you and your community strived to plant more native trees and plants, Kentucky would be able to fight back against non-native species. You will also be helping to slow down climate change since the trees you plant will absorb carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing the warming in the first place! If you take the initiative to plant native plants, you can help improve Kentucky's forest ecosystem.


You are now exiting the forest. You have seen many threats such as invasive species, bad logging practices and water pollution. But you also have a good feeling inside knowing that you can make a difference.

That feeling is hope. The hope that if your help stop water pollution, invasive species and bad logging, you can make a positive impact on Kentucky's forests.

Let's "branch out" today and save Kentucky's magnificent forest lands by using your new knowledge about forest conservation.