Volunteers Help Property Owners Manage Woodlands
Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of woodlands, 12.5 million acres, is held and managed by private landowners. Some of them own the land for income and investment potential, others for recreation, peace and solitude, or to provide wildlife habitat. Whatever the reasons, the management of these private forests has important economic and ecological implications for present and future generations.
Recently retired Central Fulton School District teacher John Griest and McConnellsburg dentist Joe Wolfe share a concern for the long-term health and viability of the state’s private forests, especially those here in Fulton County, that helped bring about their participation in the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards volunteer program.
Griest and Wolfe, along with more than 500 other volunteers throughout the state who have completed a 40-plus-hour training program, promote the wise management and use of forest resources through the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program (PaFS), an education and technical assistance effort that helps forest landowners manage their woodlands thoughtfully. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, PaFS is a cooperative effort of government agencies and private resource organizations, including Penn State University’s School of Forest Resources. It is directed by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry.
The PaFS volunteer program functions in a way similar to that of the Penn State Master Gardener volunteer program. Volunteer woodland owners complete classroom and field training in forest and wildlife management, ecology, biodiversity, silviculture, erosion control, communication and oth- er subjects to become Pennsylvania Forest Stewards volunteers. In exchange for the training, they, like their master gardener counterparts, agree to invest time sharing what they have learned with others in their communities.
On a recent Friday, Griest and Wolfe spent the morning with Fulton County’s state Bureau of Forestry service forester Dave Scamardella at a 28-acre woodland management project just west of McConnellsburg that exemplifies sustainable forestry.
The two volunteers had the opportunity to observe clearcutting taking place on property that belongs to Gene Headley of McConnellsburg. Headley, the service forester said, was prompted to do something with his woodlands when he realized he had a dying stand of hardwood pines. According to Scamardella, Headley consulted a professional forester, who drew up a plan, and then bid the job. The pines were clearcut and the hardwoods, which comprise about six acres of the project area, were thinned. Scamardella called Headley’s project “good forestry.”
Scamardella also said that clearcutting the pines, which don’t live much more than 50 years, would allow them to regenerate. In just a couple of years, he said, the 22 acres of Headley’s property that were clearcut would be full of young pines that “will make perfect habitat for white-tailed deer for the next five to 10 years.”
Griest completed his forest steward volunteer training just a month ago, along with 26 others, at Camp Sequanota in Somerset County. An outdoorsman, he hunts, although not as actively as he once did, and is concerned about the responsible management of Pennsylvania’s forests. “I’d like to see Pennsylvania’s forests get back to the way they once were,” Griest said.
Wolfe is an avid hunter and lover of all things outdoors. He has been a forest steward volunteer for about four years and says he gets three to four calls a year from woodland owners seeking his help. A lot more information, however, is shared, he says, as he goes about his daily activities. That’s OK with Wolfe, who says he’s happy to get the word out about good forestry whatever the means.
After completing their training, forest steward volunteers serve as representatives of PaFS. They encourage landowners to base their management activities on their own objectives, whether it be timber improvement, reforestation, wildlife habitat, aesthetic values, water resources protection and improvement, or recreation. Most PaFS volunteers develop and implement a forest stewardship plan for their own land with the help of a professional and then go on to promote forest stewardship through outreach opportunities that mesh their interest and expertise with a perceived need in the community.
Altogether there are 21 forest steward volunteers servicing Fulton and Bedford counties. Lowell Stephens and son Loren Stephens, both of Crystal Spring, are two other volunteers who reside in Fulton County.
Woodland owners who would like the assistance of either Griest or Wolfe can reach Griest by phone at 717-485-5293 or Wolfe at 717- 485-3856. To learn more about the forest stewards volunteer program or the forest stewardship program, contact the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program toll-free at 1-800-235- 9473 or visit the Web site at paforeststewards. cas.psu.edu. http://paforeststewards.cas. psu.edu