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Giving Thanks for Woodland Owners

Posted: November 17, 2015

Pennsylvania woodland owners are daily making decisions about the care and well-being of their piece of Penn’s Woods, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

About 100 years ago, Joyce Kilmer penned, “I think that I shall never see A poem as love as a tree…” Nearly everyone has heard this short endearing prose; however, how many ever stop to ponder the benefits they receive daily from our sylvan landscapes? We tend to take trees and woods for granted, they have always been there; they will always remain. At this time of the year, as we move to the next season of winter snows and quiet landscapes, take a minute to reflect on how forests and trees add to your quality of life and give thanks for those who care for them.

In Pennsylvania, 70% of the state’s 16 million acres of forestland is owned by people -- families, individuals, partnerships -- not the federal, state, or local government, and not industry. Pennsylvania likely has more woodland owners than any state in the nation. While academicians debate methods used to estimate the correct number, we know there are a lot of Pennsylvania woodland owners out there (740,000 by the most recent estimate). It is important to recognize that these unique individuals are daily making decisions about the care and well-being of their piece of Penn’s Woods, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

From the smallest parcels with stands of trees (not maintained as lawn) that are an acre or more in size to the largest forested watersheds owned by individuals, partnerships, families, and hunt clubs, these wooded properties contribute to our Commonwealth’s well-being. They clean our air, removing particulate matter and other air pollution that affect respiratory diseases -- heck, they make our air. These woodlands clean water and act as a sponge absorbing massive amounts of stormwater. It would take a rainstorm of over 4 inches/hour to overcome the infiltration capacities of good forest soil. Because of their capacity to absorb water, we seldom get gully-washers of that magnitude. Tree root systems, primarily the micro-roots, capture and hold pollutants to clean streams.

With 70% of the woods in the hands of private owners, their lands are the primary source of the raw materials that are the wood products we use daily. When we survey woodland owners, timber is number nine or ten on the list of reasons for owning woods. Things like connection to the woods, privacy, wildlife and biodiversity, recreation, family legacy, and aesthetics far outweigh a desire to cut trees. Yet many of these woodland owners understand that to keep their forests healthy and working, there are times when cutting trees is appropriate and needs to happen. A good woodland steward approaches cutting with an eye towards the next forest and ensures the forest left behind conserves and perpetuates their ownership values. Our state’s woods are a renewable resource. They need care to remain healthy.

These 11.5 million acres of private forests are home to our state’s charismatic mega- and micro-fauna. The deer, turkey, bear, fisher, porcupine, migratory songbirds, salamanders, snakes, insects, and many, many other species depend on woodland in their home and foraging ranges. White-tailed deer, our state mammal, evoke love and hate responses from woodland owners. On one hand when populations are out of balance they negatively affect forest values. When managed well, they provide untold viewing pleasure, sport, and economic value. No matter the species, forest habitat is an important resource to the wildlife that call our region home. And just think about the beauty these forests bring to our landscapes. Seeing green and thriving native trees aids in healing, reducing stress levels, and promotes relaxation and well-being. Penn’s Woods’ citizens would lose without our private woodlands.

Whether you are aware of it or not, our state’s privately held woodlands are vital to our well-being. With the majority of it owned by people like you and me, the decisions made in its care affect us all. Many woodland owners put a lot of sweat, tears, and blood into caring for their woods -- battling invasives, worrying about forest health threats to their trees, creating wildlife habitat, and many other investments of time and resources. They want to leave their land healthier and better cared for than when they got it. Based on the trees’ lifetimes, these owners won’t see the results of their labors; but they benefit us all and those who come after. At this time of gratitude, give thanks for woodland owners. They care for the trees.

Contact Information

Allyson Brownlee Muth, Ed.D.
  • Forest Stewardship Program Associate
Phone: 814-865-3208