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Family Forest Education Award

Posted: January 13, 2017

The Center for Private Forests at Penn State received the 2016 Family Forest Education Comprehensive Program Award from the National Association of University Forest Resources Programs and the National Woodland Owners Association.

The Center for Private Forests at Penn State received the 2016 Family Forest Education Comprehensive Program Award from the National Association of University Forest Resources Programs and the National Woodland Owners Association. This award recognizes highly effective engagement and education programs for woodland owners, addressing any or all aspects of forest resources management.

The Center for Private Forests was established at Penn State University to ensure a lasting, dedicated means of providing high-quality educational resources and learning opportunities to Pennsylvanians who own and care for woodlands across the state. Penn State has offered educational programs about forests to diverse audiences since the early 1990s through the PA Forest Stewardship program. To further this mission, the Center for Private Forests purposely focuses on the needs of woodland owners through applied research to create targeted, responsive, and innovative educational programming. We share what we learn with our partners, which helps to guide and enrich policies and outreach efforts of others who work with woodland owners.

The PA Forest Stewards volunteer program is one of the Center’s premier efforts, where landowners help others learn to care for their woodlands. Annually, nearly 500 volunteers, who have received intensive training to support their goals of good woodland stewardship, share what they’ve learned through interactions with at least 500,000 fellow landowners and others interested in trees and woodlands. These volunteers have made a difference in stewardship of the state’s 12 million acres of private woodlands – 71% of Pennsylvania’s forests.

Another hallmark of the Center’s success is the biennial Forest Landowners Conference which began in 2013 and continues to grow in participation as well as impact. At the 3rd Biennial Forest Landowners Conference --March 24 and 25, 2017 in Altoona, PA-- the Center hopes to draw 700 or more woodland owners to the Blair County Convention Center for two days of learning, visiting with vendors and service providers, and sharing their passion with others who also love trees and woodlands (see links for registration on page 6). The Center and its event partners carefully select a range of topics of interest and relevance to woodland owners of all experience levels, whether they own 1 acre or 1000 acres.

Research done by the Center suggests that Pennsylvania may acquire thousands of new landowners every year as owners decide to sell or don’t plan well to pass their land forward to either their heirs or other owners in one parcel. As the forest is broken into smaller and smaller parcels, this challenges the health and function of the land and makes it increasingly difficult to ensure that ecological functions work well. The Center is working through committees of landowners and with a statewide DCNR Bureau of Forestry effort to increase discussions about conserving working and functioning woodland landscapes through estate and legacy planning and creating the resources to help landowners and resource professionals through the process.

The 2016 Family Forest Education Comprehensive Program Award recognizes these and many other ongoing efforts accomplished by the Center and its staff and faculty at Penn State each year, and calls attention to the collaborative work they are undertaking with their partners and volunteers in helping to steward the state’s privately held woodlands.