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PA Forest Stewards Volunteers Awarded the 2016 Rothrock Award

Posted: October 13, 2016

This year, as the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteer Program celebrates its 25th year of delivering the forest stewardship message to an enormous audience of other forest landowners, we are pleased to share that they have been awarded the 2016 Joseph Trimble Rothrock Award for Forest Conservation.
PA Forest Stewards Volunteers receive the award at the PFA Dinner. Photo by Jim Finley

PA Forest Stewards Volunteers receive the award at the PFA Dinner. Photo by Jim Finley

(Editor’s Note: The text for this article was excerpted from the nomination letter and the presentation introduction at the PFA Annual Meeting)

Joseph Rothrock, the Father of Pennsylvania Forestry, understood the role communications played in meeting the needs of and improving the relationships between stakeholders. As a founding member and first president of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, Rothrock used the organization as a pulpit to “incite the interest of people throughout the state on forestry – to preserve, protect, and propagate the forest.”

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteers serve as a network of trained mentors who have the ability to reach beyond traditional audiences, and are trusted guides for many woodland owners who may not know about available professional resources. Pennsylvania Forest Stewards serve as a conduit for information to help other landowners make well-informed decisions about the future of their woods, the future of our woods. This year, as the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteer Program celebrates its 25th year of delivering the forest stewardship message to an enormous audience of other forest landowners, we are pleased to share that they have been awarded the 2016 Joseph Trimble Rothrock Award for Forest Conservation.

The initial intent of the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards was to build a network of volunteer forest landowners who would leverage outreach capability to reach Pennsylvania’s private landowners, individuals who could influence their friends and neighbors more effectively than an educational institution or government agency. Today, hundreds of thousands of forest landowners and the public learn about good forest stewardship through this peer-to-peer network of informed woodland owners.

All volunteers initially receive 40 hours of classroom and field training in the principles of stewardship, silviculture, forest and wildlife management, tree identification and measurement, forest ecology, biodiversity, financial, legal, and legacy issues, and outreach resources. Apart from an investment in time and a commitment in spirit, there is no charge for this training. In exchange participants are asked to volunteer a similar amount of time sharing what they have learned with others, one of the most productive and rewarding time investments one can make.

Now housed in the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards is a cooperative effort of the Center, Penn State Extension, the USDA Forest Service, the Pennsylvania DCNR Bureau of Forestry, representatives of the forest industry, and various environmental and conservation organizations. Its yearly training of new volunteers is supplemented with advanced in-service updates for all participants, numerous opportunities to participate in outreach and research, access to new resources, and a bi-monthly newsletter.

Part of the phenomenal success of the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards organization can be attributed to its deft use of the varied skills that this diverse group of participants bring to the program: the writer or poet who uses accurate information to reach a reader; the skilled speaker who delivers a stewardship message; the artist, photographer, or graphic designer who reveals the beauty and intricacy of ecological connections; a rural sociologist who balances love of community with love of forests; even the financial guru who draws a parallel between prudent investment practices and sustainable forestry practices… plus each and every Pennsylvania Forest Steward who illuminates some small vital details to family, friend, neighbor, or stranger which propels the stewardship of Penn’s Woods into a more secure future.

None of us can be Joseph Trimble Rothrock, but each individual volunteer can and does make a difference, delivering a modern stewardship message that we are sure Rothrock would recognize.

We offer our heartiest congratulations to the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteers on the receipt of this tremendous honor.