Wednesday, April 7, 2021

PA Forestry Assn. Tells House Committee About Importance Of Sustainability, Forest Stewardship

On April 7, Mark Ott, President of the
Pennsylvania Forestry Association, told the members of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee about the importance of forest stewardship and sustainability in the management of private and public forest land in the Commonwealth.

Read his written testimony here.

“The Pennsylvania Forestry Association has been working to promote forest stewardship to ensure the sustainability of all forest resources. 

“Among our members are forest landowners, forest industries, resources professionals, loggers, private citizens, environmental groups, and businesses who care about Pennsylvania’s forest resources.”

“Pennsylvania has the largest hardwood forest in the United States which provides a host of benefits. 

“Forest properties provide indirect and direct benefits to all Pennsylvanians such as air and water quality protection, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, aesthetic views, recreation, flood reduction, carbon sequestration and wood products that are essential to our daily lives.”

“Today, forests face increasing challenges from many factors including invasive insects and diseases, development pressures, labor shortages, deer impact and climate change. 

“By cataloguing the benefits forests provide, by adopting regulations and practices that conserve forests, by allowing sustainable harvesting, by supporting the industry and by educating residents about the value of forests, government plays a key role in ensuring the conservation and responsible use of Pennsylvania's forest lands.

“While we recognize large tracts predominated by trees as forests, other wooded parcels, such as farm woodlots, wooded open space within residential developments, and forested buffers along streams, are also key components of our forested landscapes. 

“In addition, we must also recognize Urban Forests – those trees along the streets and in the parks and yards of Commonwealth cities and towns. 

“These also provide great benefit to the 80 percent of our residents who live there through temperature buffering shade, cleaner air, calming presence, softening of urban vistas and more.”

“In 2018 Pennsylvania’s forest products industry was responsible for 64,000 jobs, $3.5 billion in earnings, $21.6 million in direct economic impact and $36 billion in total economic impact. At the second quarter of 2020 there were 65,773 people working at 2,169 establishments.”

“The forest product supply chain begins with the forest landowners who manage their land for a combination of reasons including wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, firewood, recreation and hunting, and sometimes just for its aesthetic value or beauty.”

“The challenges we face and some of the positives that are helping include [these are the environmental challenges and positive developments mentioned by Mr. Ott]:

“Challenge - Several non-native, invasive pests and diseases threaten the health and

productivity of Pennsylvania’s forests. These include gypsy moth, hemlock wooly adelgid, beech bark disease, emerald ash borer, walnut thousand cankers disease, syrex woodwasp and spotted lanternfly. Much more work needs to be done to address the invasive pests.

“Challenge - In many parts of the state, a continued overpopulation of deer is limiting the ability for the forest to regenerate. The term “Deer Wars” denotes the conflicts between hunters that want to see a deer behind every tree so they can quickly harvest “my deer” and foresters who would like to see about 8-15 deer per square mile depending on habitat carrying capacity.

“Challenge - Invasive vegetation, weather events, changes in acid deposition and air pollution are other factors that impact the health and productivity of Pennsylvania’s forests.

“Positive - Pennsylvania’s forests are growing at more than twice the rate of their removal ratio. This is a boon to carbon sequestration and is of such value that the American Forestry Foundation, parent organization of the Tree Farm System currently has a pilot program in the state to enroll private forest landowners in the carbon sequestration market.

“Funds from these enrollments help landowners to invest in forest management practices or to simply pay the taxes on their properties which helps keep them in the family and avoid the growing parcelization of forest tracts that occurs through sales or breaking up the parcel as it proceeds through generations of family ownership.”

“Positive - Pennsylvania is a national leader in the implementation and promotion of sustainable forestry practices that provide renewable resources to support the forest products industry while ensuring sustainability of our forests for future generations.

“Positive - The Pennsylvania Forest Products Association (PFPA) administers Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) through an Implementation Committee, which conducts logger training, landowner education and public outreach to achieve continuous improvement in forestry and harvesting practices.

“Positive - More than 2.4 million acres of State Forest and private lands are certified as “well-managed” according to the criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council. Pennsylvania is a leading producer of FSC-certified lumber and forest products.

“As of 2019, Pennsylvania now has 2,279,105 acres certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard. State forest lands in Pennsylvania have been certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since 1998 and achieved SFI certification in 2020 for dual FSC/SFI certification.

“Positive – The PFA, through its PA Tree Farm Committee, oversees the Tree Farms in PA giving these landowners the only option open to them for certifying that they are sustainably managing their forests. This certification along with the FSC and SFI certification of PA forests should one day drive premium prices for wood harvested from the properties.

“ I look for the FSC or SFI logo on wood products that I purchase, be it paper or lumber. Be sure you do so also. 

“Spread the word.”

“Negative – Stagnant investment in Parks and Forests has been limiting maintenance of these “Crown Jewels” of Pennsylvania. Maurice Goddard envisioned a state park system that would place a park within 15 miles of every Pennsylvanian. His work nearly reached that goal with the establishment of the state park system. State forests are another aspect of this asset for Pennsylvanians. Our forebearers were witness to the days when PA forests were devastated from overharvest for the iron, building and railroad industries. 

“Today we see vast areas of green trees throughout the Commonwealth. All that green hides the underlying peril our trees are in. 

“I ask that you continue the great work of past legislators to keep our forests, parks, forest industry and the forestry agencies and entities healthy and sustainable.”

“Positive & Negative – Landowner outreach is among the stated goals of the PFA, SFI, PFPA, the HUGs, The Center for Private Forests at Penn State, DCNR, PGC, PA Parks & Forests Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the many conservancies in the state, among others. 

“All these groups together and individually work hard to help people manage their forests. 

“They make strides every year and without them the state of PA forests would be dismal. 

And yet, it has not been enough to get the message out to the wide audience of 750,000 private forest landowners. 

“There is not enough support for private forest landowners to learn about forest management or to enable them to take steps to manage their forests sustainably. 

“More needs to be done to get people on board through public information, loans and grants, landowner and public education, support of the industry, hunter education, municipality education, support of carbon sequestration, urban and riparian buffer planting, markets and marketing and just plain creating an environment where all Pennsylvanians value and are proud of our forest resources.”

Click Here for Mr. Ott’s full written testimony.

For more information on programs, initiatives, upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the Pennsylvania Forestry Association website.

Also presenting testimony to the Committee were--

-- Jonathan Geyer, PA Hardwoods Development Council

-- Wesley Miller, A.M. Logging, LLC

-- Norm Steffy, Cummings Lumber Company

Click Here to watch a video of the hearing.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) serves as Majority Chair of the House Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1707 or sending email to: Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7647 or sending email to:

[Posted: April 7, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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