For decades the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has offered eastern Kentuckians vital support through Robinson Forest, Robinson Station and the Wood Utilization Center.

Until now, all three units were operating independently of each other. Now, all three are combining under one umbrella and a new name to reflect their unity — the Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability.

"I am grateful to the faculty and staff leaders of Robinson Forest and Robinson Station for initiating this exciting new strategy," said Scott Smith, dean of the UK College of Agriculture. "I know it will advance the impact and the efficiency of these facilities that are so critical to our support for this region."

David Ditsch, formerly superintendent of Robinson Station, will lead the center as director, reporting to Nancy Cox, UK College of Agriculture associate dean for research and director of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station. Cox will administer the new center at the college level. Ditsch said he believes the center's consolidation will be beneficial on many levels.

"We believe this change will not only be a cost-effective measure for the college's efforts in eastern Kentucky, but it also gives us a clearer focus and a more unified appearance," Ditsch said . "We'll continue to offer the applied research and educational support to our county agents and clients, but we'll also add some new partnerships and explore new programming opportunities."

The center's new organization will not result in the closing of facilities that have historically offered educational programming and forest industry support, but rather open up the facilities for more collaboration by UK colleges, departments and state agencies.

"Really this is a great opportunity for the public to get a better understanding of all the college's resources committed to the Appalachian region," Ditsch said. "It also allows us to participate in the college's sustainability goals by managing our Eastern Kentucky resources in a more sustainable way."

Ditsch said the unification is an especially huge plus for Robinson Forest. The center has already teamed up with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to host the first Youth Elk Hunt on the Paul Van Booven Wildlife Management Area, where five youths were chosen from around the country to participate in October.

"We're trying to get involved in more partnerships like this to show eastern Kentuckians the variety of things we have to offer," he added. "It will be exciting to see how the center evolves from this point forward."