Pennsylvania’s State Forests–A New Plan

forest-md

Pennsylvania is also known as Penn’s Woods. There are, in fact, about 17 million  acres of forests in Pennsylvania, of which just shy of 15% are actually State Forests, run by the state’s Bureau of Forestry. This year the Bureau has released its 2015 updated State Forest Management Plan (the first update since 2007). This plan is open for public comment until November 30, 2015. The main website (with instruction on whom to email comments and a survey on the plan, is here:

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforestmanagement/sfrmp/2015sfrmp/index.htm

The Plan attempts to deal with many issues currently affecting Pennsylvania State Forests. A sampling of these includes (but is not limited to): the increase in fracking for natural gas, more public attention to sustainable forest management, climate change, recreational uses, new disease threats, the importance of social media, long-term timber production, cultural and historic resources, and a forest inventory.

Before I read through this, I had no idea that almost all of today’s state forests were barren land a century ago, or that the state forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (and audited every 5 years). Nor did I know that the state works with Penn State to develop an optimization model to balance near term wood product harvesting demand with long term forest vibrancy. In fact, one of the original purposes of creating state forests was to enable a long term supply of various wood products from Pennsylvania. This certainly implies that long term sustainability of that supply is a top concern.

On the other hand, extraction industries (coal, oil, and natural gas, especially fracking) are not operated with the goal of maintaining environmental health; they often need an environmental mitigation component. Naturally, the less of these in the forests in the first place, the less environmental mitigation required. One of Gov. Wolf’s first actions in office was to put an immediate stop to new leases for Marcellus Shale gas–but many remain active on the books.

As an avid hiker, the main thing I think about in terms of the (state) forest is the network of trails. That is “recreation” in the forest for me. Surprisingly, a major recreational use of the state forests is simply taking a scenic drive. Hunting, camping, canoeing, kayaking are on the list as well. I had no idea how dynamic the state forests truly are.

This dynamism comes out in the plan. It is worth taking some time to become educated on what is going on in the forest(s).

Summary page for the State Forest Management Plan

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforestmanagement/sfrmp/2015sfrmp/index.htm

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