By ABBY BELDEN

abelden@dailynews.net

Jim Strine's original plan was to stay in Hays for a short while after taking a position at the Kansas Forest Service.

He figured he'd spend a few years in the area and then move on.

That was in 1978.

A little more than 34 years has passed since Strine took the position at the Forest Service, where he is district forester of the northwest district.

"When I hired on out here, my original plan was to work three to five years and, when the opportunity came about, I'd move back to eastern Kansas, where you have more traditional forest," Strine said.

Strine grew up on a farm in Atchison County and spent a majority of his childhood outside in the timber and down by the creek.

He pursued a career in forestry after results of a career test in high school showed he might have an interest in working outside with natural resources.

He said he received a bachelor's degree in forest management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1975 and a master's degree in forest management in 1977.

Strine said he worked as a research assistant in the Forestry Department at Kansas State University for a year until moving to Hays, where he has been ever since.

"I just really enjoyed it out here and figured as long as I'm enjoying what I'm doing, and the people seem to think I'm doing a good job and my boss is happy, why move?" he said. "I've been here ever since."

Strine's job responsibilities range from timber management to providing technical assistance to landowners and communities with anything tree-related.

Kansas is divided into six districts, and Strine oversees the northwest district, helping rural landowners and community members.

The district is approximately 200 miles long and 100 miles wide.

In addition to traveling around the district, Strine also works to educate youth and city personnel on proper tree care.

Strine works with programs such as Great Plains Society of American Foresters, which sponsors the SAF Walk in the Woods in Kingman County.

During the walk, which Strine has participated in for 15 years, he talks to students from Kingman County and surrounding areas about the importance of trees, why trees are needed, how trees grow and how all the various parts of trees are interrelated.

"It seems like nowadays, just the kids are getting so far from nature," he said. "I remember when I was growing up, gosh, we were out playing in our timber and along the creeks all the time."

With all the various areas of Strine's job, it keeps him out of the office and busy, but he said "there's always plenty of paperwork."

"I could not sit in the office, day after day, staring at a computer screen," he said. "That just wouldn't catch it."

While he has enjoyed his career, it has not been without its challenges.

Strine said the job can get hectic in the spring, as the Forest Service is handling service requests, tree planting plans for landowners and more.

After many projects and planted trees throughout his career, Strine will be handing off the position to someone new when he retires in July.

"I've really enjoyed my forestry career, and I'm glad that I chose that as the career to work in," he said.

Strine said he would be interested in spending time at Cheyenne Bottoms, visiting the giant redwoods and sequoias in California and spending more time at his family's farm working in the timber.

"Basically, what I am going to do is get up in the mornings and decide what I want to do, and I will do it," Strine said.