A love for the outdoors is in Chris Kinslow’s blood. His career destination as a St. Johns River Water Management District land manager seemed inevitable.
“My grandparents owned timberland in south Alabama, and I spent much of my summers as a youngster there, walking with my grandparents and spending time watching ants, birds, fish and snakes,” Kinslow recalls. “My grandpa also taught me the importance of managing the land using fire and timber harvest.”
Kinslow’s parents’ love of nature also impacted him in profound ways.
“My dad grew up on a farm in North Dakota and brought with him a land ethic shaped from indigenous culture as well as a mechanical aptitude that I use every day, whether I’m dealing with chainsaws or tractors,” he says. “My mother, despite her Coral Gables upbringing, has consumed her fair share of frog legs and spent many miles with her son on trails.”
Land Manager Chris Kinslow leads a discussion with staff and the public at a recreational public meeting in Palatka in 2019.
Land Manager Chris Kinslow (left) monitors conditions of a prescribed fire in 2019, one of his many duties caring for district public lands.
Kinslow joined the district as an intern in 2008. After graduating from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Conservation and a master’s degree in Natural Resource Policy and Administration, he worked at the Ordway Swisher Biological Station in Putnam County, occasionally teaming up with the district on prescribed fires and restoration projects. In 2014, he joined the district as a land management specialist and was promoted to land manager five years later.
As a land manager, Kinslow spends more time in the office than when he was a land management specialist. Much of his daily work involves planning for upcoming projects, such as prescribed fires or invasive plant herbicide treatments, and coordinating with his crew.
“The biggest challenge is how spread out our land management regions can be,” he says. “It takes four hours to get to all the property trailheads in our region — and that is short compared to some other land management regions.”
Despite the logistics of managing large tracts scattered across the region, Kinslow loves leading a team that accomplishes tangible goals: mowing and prescribed fires that reduce fuel for wildfires, restoration projects that preserve the prettiest swatches of Florida. He says,” I love talking to people and seeing them enjoy our lands in their own unique way.”
“I like to think that my daughter can see the same woods that my grandpa saw and future generations from there,” he says. “To be entrusted with managing land for the public is a big responsibility. Our lands provide so much by just being in conservation. So many songs are written about nature and its splendor. Let’s keep those opportunities for inspiration and make sure we add new ones.”