WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita is looking to hire a sustainability coordinator. Because of the ongoing drought, the city says the focus for the new position is water conservation for now.

The position is open after the city’s sustainability integration board voted to create an opening for a paid part-time sustainability coordinator.

The position will help identify sustainability issues and find grants to unlock resources, according to the city.

Tree planting advocates say the move is long overdue. They hope it will help boost efforts to increase tree cover in the city because Wichita is losing trees over time.

According to a 2022 report, up to 5,000 trees are removed every year in the city, while only 1,600 are planted.

On top of that, the drought can make conditions more challenging for trees.

“The drought is hard on them,” said Elizabeth Bishop, chairman of the board for nonprofit ICT Trees. “It makes them more susceptible to disease.”

Trees are important partially because they help cool the city down, according to Bishop.

“You can feel that coolness if you’re walking and you walk under a big shade tree,” she said.

The city will benefit from hiring a sustainability coordinator, Bishop said.

According to Bishop, the position will help the city look for grants and opportunities for sustainability projects, including those that involve tree planting.

“There is funding that is out there and available,” she said. “We’re not going after it. We’re not making the case that we need to provide that funding for our community.”

The chair of the board of park commissioners for Wichita agreed the position is needed to help the city make progress on sustainability and that tree planting should be a priority.

To begin, the city is prioritizing combatting drought.

“We have a lot of focus on our water-saving efforts,” said City of Wichita Communications Manager Megan Lovely.

Having a sustainability coordinator will help ramp up sustainability practices across the board, according to the city.

The city currently has enough funding set aside to pay for a part-time sustainability coordinator for two years.

It will be the responsibility of the coordinator to identify and apply for funding to extend the position beyond that term.