The cherry, oak and maple hardwoods produced by Pennsylvania’s forests are famous worldwide. The tens of thousands of jobs provided by those forests — jobs in forest products, outdoor recreation and tourism — are renowned.
Less widely recognized, but equally critical, are the impacts on the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. Our forests filter pollutants from water and air, reduce the severity of floods, lock up carbon dioxide emissions, and provide abundant outdoor recreation.
However, the forests of Pennsylvania are badly stressed by too many deer, not enough fire, acidic rain and snow, pests, pathogens, poor forestry practices, housing developments, roads, energy transmission corridors and more. Healthy regeneration of forests is rare. Diversity is being lost as economically and ecologically valuable species like oak, hickory and sugar maple are replaced by less valuable species like black birch and red maple. Holes are being cut into the forests, and remaining blocks are disconnected, reducing their value to people and wildlife.
A New Commitment for at least 22 Percent
The Nature Conservancy’s scientists have identified 3.6 million acres of Pennsylvania’s forests – about 22 percent – that form an indispensable minimum network of ecologically intact and economically productive forest lands. Conservation of that 22 percent will sustain all of Pennsylvania’s forest types, and the species that depend on them.
Pennsylvania’s proud history of conservation, dating back to Gifford Pinchot, has resulted in a rich legacy of publically owned forests – more than 4 million acres worth. On these public lands, we are working in strong partnership with forest managers to develop, test, and implement the best methods to conserve and restore different forest types. We are helping the Commonwealth to establish a 500,000-acre network of forests managed specifically for biodiversity, and – just as important – working with the Bureau of Forestry to develop management methods for all state forests that will enhance their habitat values and health.
More than 70% of Pennsylvania’s forests are privately owned. On private lands, we are working with willing owners to provide them with the tools and incentives they need to implement sustainable forestry practices, and to obtain working forest conservation easements on properties in the most valuable and vulnerable areas. Our new Working Woodlands program helps landowners within the critical forest network to manage their forests for sustainable health by putting the emerging carbon market to work as a forest conservation strategy.
To make good management practices available to all, we’ve worked with partners to create an innovative tool known as Forest Restoration (FoRest) Decision Tool, which is designed to show land managers and forest landowners in an inexpensive, accessible way, how to optimize wildlife and income values on working forestlands.
We are working to address one of the most serious threats to the forests by working with partners to attack pests and pathogens that threaten the forests. And we are leading the way in using prescribed fire as a critical management tool to restore and maintain some of the state’s rarest and most ecologically valuable forest areas.