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2015 Forest Landowners Conference: A Welcome Spring

Posted: March 25, 2015

Four hundred fifty woodland owners, natural resources professionals, service providers, and interested members of the public came together for this full two-day event to ask questions, learn, network, and make new connections.

The snow came down in droves on Friday morning. Wasn’t this the first day of spring? Nevertheless over 150 hearty forest landowners and people who care about the woods came prepared for excursions to a paper mill, a lumber mill, a hunting camp, a property owned and cared for by The Nature Conservancy, or Canoe Creek State Park. The reward for braving the snow and cold was a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about wood products, active management to improve forest stewardship, Pennsylvania’s wood history, or birds and bats. These educational tours were the first events of the 2015 Forest Landowners Conference: The Future of Penn’s Woods, held March 20 and 21 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona. The event, sponsored by the Center for Private Forests at Penn State and its partners, was the second biennial conference organized for landowners and others interested in the care and stewardship of the woods.

Four hundred fifty woodland owners, natural resources professionals, service providers, and interested members of the public came together for this full two-day event to ask questions, learn, network, and make new connections. In addition to making connections with people, participants were able to add to their network others who could help accomplish activities on the land, understand more about forest ecosystems, and bring about better stewardship and care of the woods across Pennsylvania and beyond.

With ninety-nine presentations on more than seventy-five different subjects, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about topics of relevance to their interests and needs. Forty-four exhibitors complemented the sessions by offering services, answering pointed questions, and identifying resources and people who can give landowners the advice and services they need in stewarding their woodlands.

An opening keynote address by Dr. Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and Director of the Center for Private Forests, Penn State Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, set the tone for the weekend event. Dr. Finley challenged participants to think well about forest stewardship and their role in the larger ecosystem of Penn’s Woods. He encouraged interaction, networking, and finding answers to common questions to ensure the land stewardship ethic spreads across the landscape. On Friday evening, participants had the opportunity to attend a keynote banquet with Dr. Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences and Associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Alley addressed the historical importance of woods and wood energy to our developing society and challenged participants to think well about the role of forests and our patterns of consumption in addressing a changing global climate. As the final guest speaker, Chuck Fergus, author and naturalist, spoke about the value of developing a personal connection with nature, addressing the participants on learning how to “know” the land – sitting quietly, listening, and watching change.

The conference aimed to cultivate a shared awareness that our state’s private woodland owners care about their woods and to provide those landowners with resources to help them better tend their lands. For the four hundred fifty woodland owners, natural resources professionals, service providers, and others who care for the forests who attended, that goal was resoundingly achieved, through lots of good conversation and learning around the magnificent resource that is Penn’s Woods – a great way to start the season of new life and growth!

The Center for Private Forests at Penn State

Forests form the cornerstone of life in Pennsylvania, occupying 17 million of our 28 million acres. More than 70 percent of our state’s forest is privately owned: individuals, families, non-forestry corporations, and organizations. The Center for Private Forests at Penn State was created to help these forest landowners -- 740,000 across the Commonwealth, according to recent estimates -- to understand and sustain the natural resources in their care.

Responsible forest stewardship is essential to our quality of life, but private landowners may face challenges maintaining the health and well-being of their forests, from implementing sustainable management practices, to taxation and estate planning, to finding help. The Center equips private landowners with the knowledge and resources they need to be effective stewards of their woodlands, so that -- together -- we can sustain our state’s signature landscape for generations to come.

The conservation of Pennsylvania’s private forests has an important impact on overall environmental health and diversity, animal and plant species, and quality of life for individuals and communities across the region. The Center is committed to collaborating with Pennsylvania landowners, agencies, partners, and Penn State faculty and students to create best practices for sustainable forest management, and to serving as a model for other land-grant institutions, government agencies, and organizations.

Mission

The Center for Private Forests at Penn State fosters the retention, stewardship, and management of private forests by conducting applied research on stewardship issues and creating collaborative learning opportunities among private forest landowners, educators, students, volunteers, agencies, organizations, and the general public.