Bald Eagle Area School District in Centre County has long recognized the linkage between conservation and education.
The district recently launched a Cooperative Forest Management Project for the school’s forested land that directly will connect students to the forest and provide opportunities to engage in caring for the woods while exploring potential careers in forestry and natural resources.
With more than 400 wooded acres of forest located at the gateway to the Pennsylvania Wilds Region and a short distance from Penn State University, the school district is uniquely positioned to promote responsible stewardship of its natural resources and demonstrate the dynamic values the forests can produce to students, staff, and the community.
Partners in the project include Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry, Penn State’s Center for Private Forests, The Nature Conservancy-PA, and Domtar Paper Company.
Domtar Paper Company, the largest manufacturer of uncoated paper in North America, has committed $10,000 to support the project (photo), which will result in the development of a custom forest management plan and access to the Forest Stewardship Council’s (FSC) stamp of ‘green certification,’ which ensures long-term, responsible management of forest resources.
To meet the requirements of FSC-certification and to best quantify the natural resources within the school district’s property, a comprehensive, multi-faceted forest inventory will be performed this fall.
Data collected through traditional forest measurements, using variable radius point sampling, fixed area plots, and photo-stations will generate forest and wildlife habitat summaries, timber stand volume and value estimates, along with an overall Forest Condition Report Card.
All other elements required for the management plan and to prepare for FSC-certification will be derived through landowner interviews, community stakeholder engagement, and consultation with natural resource agency professionals.
This project also ties in with the newly released recommendations of Gov. Wolf’s Green Ribbon Task Force on Forest Products, Conservation, and Jobs. The recommendations from the recently released task force report include:
-- Creating partnerships between education and industry;
-- Broadening discussion and inclusion of forestry and forest occupations in education;
-- Developing demonstration areas to showcase best practices in forest management; and
-- Expanding public awareness and education efforts to promote the importance of forests to clean water.
A ceremony was held at the school district during the end of October to recognize the launch of the project. Attendees included Mark Ott, a retiree of the Bald Eagle School District and an active member of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, who was the driving force in the initiation of the project.
Also on hand were Jeff Miles, the school’s superintendent; Mike Eckley of the Nature Conservancy-PA; Luke Dillinger of Domtar Paper out of Johnsonburg; Dr. James Finley of the Penn State Center for Private Forests; U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson; and DCNR Bureau of Forestry staff.
Service forester Tim Cole of the Rothrock State Forest District and Service forester Gerald Hoy of the Bald Eagle State Forest District (who is himself a Bald Eagle Area School District alum) will be actively involved, providing advice and guidance to the school district.
DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is eager to track the progress of this project, as it could serve as a model for other efforts.
During the ceremony announcing the work, Dr. Finely said, “This project demonstrates true care for the resource. It provides a host of opportunities, one of which is to serve as an example. Stewardship of the land is fundamental to many values people appreciate-clean water, clean air, and healthful places to recreate.”
In closing, the school’s superintendent, Jeff Miles, summed it up best when he said, “This project is on the cutting edge of education and we are proud to be partnering with a great group and getting students and faculty actively engaged.”
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