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Giving to the Center for Private Forests at Penn State

Posted: October 14, 2015

The Center for Private Forests is working to raise funds to support its mission and vision of raising awareness about the importance of working forests to our societal well-being, helping landowners make well-informed decisions about caring well for their woods, conducting research on the issues facing woodland owners, and educating the next generation of professionals and the public whose role it will be to care for those woods into the future.

The number of forest landowners in Pennsylvania has been steadily increasing over the past several decades. Providing relatable and timely information to such a large set of owners with diverse experiences and needs is clearly a challenge. The Center for Private Forests at Penn State was established in late 2011 to ensure a continuity of focus on education and outreach to private forest landowners and responsiveness to their evolving needs and challenges in caring for this resource. Simply, it strives to connect people to the land, while encouraging stewardship that extends beyond the current generation.

The Center for Private Forests is working to raise funds to support its mission and vision of raising awareness about the importance of working forests to our societal well-being, helping landowners make well-informed decisions about caring well for their woods, conducting research on the issues facing woodland owners, and educating the next generation of professionals and the public whose role it will be to care for those woods into the future.

Outreach such as this newsletter, webinars, publications, trainings and workshops, and the support and outreach of the PA Forest Stewards volunteer program are a critical part of helping landowners learn how to tend their woodlands now and with future generations in mind. Forty plus years of research into the opportunities and challenges facing woodland owners (from one acre to thousands) ensure that the work is meeting the needs and demands of those who own and care for the woods. Education and training for the next generation of forest professionals complement the work of the Center and its staff.

The center and its work continue to grow and evolve, guided by what landowners express need for and the key concerns relating to forest health. “Our hope is that the center will increase the support available for private forest owners and users by enhancing undergraduate and graduate education and research on topics of importance to private forest landowners, providing relevant tools and knowledge, and expanding outreach to woodland owners and the public in Pennsylvania and beyond,” says Jim Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Management and the Director of the Center for Private Forests. “People need to know how much private forests contribute to all facets of their lives.”

To that end, center staff members conduct research to understand the interests and needs of private forest owners. For example, they learned that about one in seven households in Pennsylvania owns an acre or more of woodland. These owners have woodlands for many reasons, which often do not include managing for timber. Instead, they express interests in solitude, wildlife, recreation, and hunting. In addition, center staff learned that about 25 percent of the 11.5 million privately held acres are in ownerships smaller than 20 acres. Therefore, it is important to create education programs that incorporate forest management for individuals with diverse interests and varying levels of expertise. Other research has explored how to help private owners protect forests as they pass them onto the next generation. The Center is now focusing on creating tools and resources to assist woodland owners in thinking, having conversations, and making decisions about what happens to the land after their tenure – forest legacy planning.

Other recent work has expanded to create outreach, tools, and education for beginning woodland owners – those who may not have engaged actively in caring for their woods or sought information and education – to move them to a place of greater understanding about the resource they love and care about.

As the first director of the center, Finley is eager to see Penn State take on the critically important role of conserving and stewarding forests for today and tomorrow. “We have made significant progress in the past four years,” he says, “and we are looking to continue defining opportunities to spread the word expressed in our motto: ‘connecting people and forests.’”

As you make plans for your end of year charitable giving, we hope you will consider making a donation to the Center for Private Forests at Penn State in support of its work and to help us build capacity and products. You may visit the Center’s webpage to make a donation directly via your credit card. We thank you for your support.