Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program plans programs on woodlands management
About 11.7 million acres of Pennsylvania are privately owned woodlands, and officials with the Penn State Extension want to teach people how to properly care for them.
During the next month, the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program will hold seminars, educational tours and lectures across the state for property owners, with the goal of helping them maintain healthy trees and a healthy ecosystem.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Woodland Owners Association will hold a seminar at the Greene County Fairgrounds at 7 p.m. Wednesday on water quality and the potential effects of acid mine drainage and hydraulic fracking.
On Saturday, a “field trip” to Ten Mile Creek County Park in Clarksville will include water testing in the woods, said Gay Thistle, president of the association.
“Water quality is a new issue for us because most of our people have land in areas that have to deal with Marcellus (shale),” said Thistle of Center Township in Greene County.
State forestry officials helped form groups such as the Southwestern Pennsylvania Woodland Owners Association in the late 1990s to organize the owners of private tracts of woods and give them a forum to share information and best practices for keeping trees healthy.
Thistle said the group's roughly 60 members have a range of uses for their woodlands, including growing trees for timber, animal habitat, harvesting fruits and nuts or just enjoying nature.
“There are a lot of issues facing woodland owners,” she said. “We've got invasive (species), we've got diseases, we've got pipelines and drilling. ... We needed some way to get together and talk.”
Jim Finley, a Penn State forest management professor, said forest stewardship programs statewide help people consider long-term care of wooded areas.
“We tend to think that if it's green, it's healthy,” he said, but Pennsylvania faces issues ranging from the hemlock woolly adelgid, which threatens eastern hemlocks, to an overpoulation of deer.
In June, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Woodland Owners Association will host an informational hike on Warrior Trail in Fordyce, Whitely Township, during which participants will learn the trail history and get a refresher on species identification.
On Wednesday, an informational session in North Park Lodge will address managing the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect that is destroying ash trees.
John Burnham, vice president of the local woodland owners group, said its events help expose young people to nature and teach property owners how to get the most from their land.
“Often, a woodland owner has always dreamed of having a place in the country, and now they have this piece of the woods and it's, ‘What do I do?' ” said Burnham, 70, a tree farmer from East Finley, Washington County, who is breeding American chestnut trees to resist the blight that killed most of the country's native chestnut trees.
“We can get them information on planting, harvesting, thinning, what have you.”
For more information on scheduled events, visit busybeaver.cs.pitt.edu/swpwo.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.