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Faces of Conservation

Mike Eckley Q&A

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification recognizes responsible land stewardship through independent evaluation and certification of forestry practices.

As landowners are challenged to balance ecological, economic and social goals, the FSC provides a structure for forest management review and feedback.

The Nauture Conservancy’s Mike Eckley, outreach forester in Pennsylvania, answers questions about his current role and goal to establish a Forest Conservation Program in Pennsylvania.

"We are currently preparing a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forest management plan for the 3,000-acre West Branch Wilderness Preserve – it’ll be the first of its kind for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania."

— Mike Eckley, outreach forester in Pennsylvania

What’s your role at The Nature Conservancy?

Mike Eckley:

I work as the Pennsylvania Chapter’s first outreach forester, where my primary role is to assist with the development and implementation of forest stewardship projects on privately-owned working forest lands.

These projects include landowner outreach and education, preparation of certified forest management plans for cooperating landowners, and landowner assistance with implementation of forest management and restoration practices.

In which project area does your work focus?

Mike Eckley:

At this time, most of my work is within the “Big Woods” of north central Pennsylvania, in the heart of the north central highlands. This region of the state consists of vast forest lands, with the primary watershed being the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

What is the most important project you’re either working on right now, or have recently completed?

Mike Eckley:

We are currently preparing a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified forest management plan for the 3,000-acre West Branch Wilderness Preserve – it’ll be the first of its kind for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania.

By obtaining FSC certification, we’re demonstrating that our forest management and restoration activities follow a comprehensive set of excellent sustainable forest management practices. This management plan will help us effectively implement our forest restoration strategies and showcase our working forest laboratory for education and outreach purposes to private landowners in our region.

We’re also using this plan to establish our Forest Conservation Program as an FSC “certified forest service provider” for private landowners. As an FSC-certified service provider, we’ll provide management services, including planning and on-the-ground restoration activities, to private forest landowners within our 3.6 million-acre forest conservation network. Advantages to landowners include best management practices for balancing wildlife and economic values, greatly reduced costs for forest certification, and potential entry into alternative forest product markets – such as carbon sequestration credits.

What is the Conservancy’s long-term goal for this project?

Mike Eckley:

The completion of an FSC-certified forest management plan for our West Branch Wilderness Preserve will serve as a model, which we’ll use with private forest landowners cooperating in what we call our Working Forest Initiative.

The West Branch plan will also serve as a reference for developing and implementing forest management plans among the Conservancy’s other preserves in Pennsylvania. Ideally, we’d like to see FSC-certified forest management plans implemented by a high percentage of forest landowners within the 3.6 million-acre conservation network.

Mike Eckley joined The Nature Conservancy’s Forest Conservation Program in Pennsylvania during the summer of 2007 and is serving as its first outreach forester.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Mr. Eckley spent time working as a state land management forester with the Ohio Division of Forestry and as a service forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

His interests revolve around sustainable forest management and the social aspects associated with maintaining a working forest landscape. Eckley received a B.S. in Forest Resources Management and a minor in Communications from West Virginia University and an M.S. in Forestry at the University of Maine-Orono.

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