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Forest Stewardship Program Information

Pennsylvania Forest Stewards (formerly known as VIP-COVERTS) initially receive approximately 40 hours of classroom and field training in forest ecology, biodiversity, silviculture, wildlife science, environmental resource management and other subjects related to stewardship.

About Pennsylvania Forest Stewards

In exchange, PA Forest Stewards agree to invest a like amount of their time relaying what they have learned to motivate forest landowners in their communities.

Pennsylvania Forest Stewards volunteers are part of the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program. The program provides forestland owners with information and assistance to promote healthy and productive forests. The Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program is sponsored by the PA Bureau of Forestry and the USDA Forest Service.

How the PA Forest Stewards Volunteer Program Works

Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteers are trained in the principles of stewardship, silviculture (the growing of forest trees), forest and wildlife management, tree identification and measurement, forest ecology, financial and legal issues, and outreach resources. Participants also tour demonstration areas to see examples of forest management practices.

In exchange for the 40-hour training, participants agree to volunteer a similar amount of time sharing what they have learned with others. The nature of the volunteer service is up to the individual PA Forest Stewards volunteer. Some examples of outreach activities include talking to neighbors about forest stewardship, leading woodland tours, making presentations to adults and children, being active in woodland owners associations, and providing information to the media. The PA Forest Stewards training does not cost anything, other than agreeing to provide at least 40 hours of volunteer service. After volunteers complete training, they receive periodic newsletters, publications, and opportunities to attend advanced training sessions exclusively for PA Forest Stewards volunteers.

Need for PA Forest Stewards

Over a half-million private landowners control more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s forests. Clearly, the decisions that individual landowners make shape both the short-term and long-term condition of forest resources in the Commonwealth. Those who are accepted for PAFS training will help encourage private forest landowners to implement sound forest management practices. Hundreds and, ultimately, thousands of others can learn about good forest management through this network of informed woodland owners.

Pennsylvania Forest Land Ownership

How did the PA Forest Stewards originate?

The Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Volunteer Program (formerly known as the VIP-Coverts) program is an extension of a highly successful woodland volunteer program that originated in New England, called Coverts. A covert (the “o” is pronounced like “oven”) is a thicket that shelters wild animals or game. Thus, the name signifies that a vital part of forest stewardship is sound wildlife management. In Pennsylvania, PA Forest Stewards are supported by Penn State's Renewable Natural Resources Extension, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry, the USDA Forest Service, and the PA Forest Stewards Endowment Fund.

Who is eligible?

Volunteers must be willing and able to contribute at least 40 hours toward the Forest Stewardship Program’s educational outreach efforts and must be able to attend both weekends of the training workshop. Forest landowners who are actively involved in managing their own woodlands and are enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program will be given first consideration, but we encourage others to apply as well.

  • Think of forests as more than just trees and timber. Forests serve important environmental functions as thriving biological communities comprised of many kinds of plants and animals.
  • Learn to take into account all the potential uses and benefits of forests including environmental balance, recreation, timber, and natural beauty as you manage forest resources.
  • Share what you learn with friends, neighbors, and others in your community.
  • Join a network of other informed woodland owners and professional natural resource managers.
  • Promote responsible forestland management for future generations.

Sample Training Agenda

Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Training at Camp Sequanota

Agenda for Weekend #1

Note: All sessions will start promptly at the time indicated.

Friday, September 10

  • 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. Arrival and Check-in
  • 6:00 Dinner
  • 7:00 - 7:30 Welcome and Overview - Jim Finley and Allyson Muth
  • 7:30 - 8:00 Introductions
  • 8:00 - 9:00 Landowner Objectives - Sanford "Sandy" Smith, Jim Finley and Allyson Muth

Saturday, September 11

  • 8:00 a.m. Breakfast
  • 8:45 - 9:30 Introduction to the Forest Stewardship Program and the Pennsylvania Forest Stewards - Allyson Muth
  • 9:30 - 10:30 How to Spread Stewardship to Youth - Sanford "Sandy" Smith
  • 10:30 - 10:45 Break
  • 10:45 - 12:00 Managing Forests for Wildlife - Mark Banker
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 Forests and Water - Bryan Swistock
  • 1:45 - 2:45 Tree ID - Service Foresters
  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break
  • 3:00 - 6:00 Field Tour to Forbes State Forest (Outdoor session)
  • 6:30 Dinner
  • 7:30 - 8:30 Pennsylvania's Forest History Video and Discussion - Jim Finley and Allyson Muth

Sunday, September 12

  • 7:00 a.m. Optional Morning Walk (Outdoor session)
  • 8:00 Breakfast
  • 8:45 - 9:45 Private Forest Landowners and Their Future Plans - Cindy Longmire
  • 9:45 - 10:00 Break
  • 10:00 - 12:00 Forest Measurements - Jim Finley and Service Foresters
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 Forest Ecology - Jim Finley
  • 1:45 - 2:00 Group Photo (Outdoor session)
  • 2:00 - 3:00 Silviculture - Jim Finley
  • 3:00 Departure - Drive Safely

Agenda for Weekend #2

Note: All sessions will start promptly at the time indicated.

Friday, October 1

  • 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. Arrival and Check-in
  • 6:00 Dinner
  • 7:00 - 7:30 Welcome Back - Allyson Muth
  • 7:30 - 8:00 Roundtable Discussion
  • 8:00 - 9:30 Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Slide Sharing

Saturday, October 2

  • 8:00 a.m. Breakfast
  • 8:45 - 9:45 Regenerating Hardwoods: Managing Competition, Deer, and Light - David Jackson
  • 9:45 - 10:00 Break
  • 10:00 - 11:00 Forest Taxes and Estate Planning - Mike Jacobson
  • 11:00 - 12:00 Forest Products Marketing - David Jackson
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 Legal Issues for Forest Landowners - Mike Jacobson
  • 1:45 - 2:45 Outreach Resources for Pennsylvania Forest Stewards - Allyson Muth
  • 2:45 - 3:00 Break
  • 3:00 - 6:00 Field Tour to Bob and Susie Bastian's Property (Outdoor session)
  • 6:30 Dinner with PA Forest Stewards
  • 7:30 - 9:00 Pennsylvania Forest Stewards Slide Sharing
  • 9:00 Optional Campfire

Sunday, October 3

  • 7:00 a.m. Optional Morning Walk (Outdoor session)
  • 8:00 Breakfast
  • 8:45 - 9:45 Marcellus Gas Drilling on Forestland - Bruce Snyder
  • 9:45 - 10:00 Break
  • 10:00 - 11:00 Goals, Roles and Responsibilities, Risk Management, and the Organization - Allyson Muth
  • 11:00 - 12:00 Non-Timber Forest Products - Eric Burkhart
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. - 1:30 Roundtable - Questions
  • 1:30 - 2:30 Planning Outreach Goals
  • 2:30 - 3:00 Evaluations and Graduation
  • 3:00 Departure - Drive Safely

Becoming a PA Forest Stewards Volunteer

To become a PA Forest Stewards Volunteer, participants must be nominated by a current Volunteer, a service forester, extension educator, or other partner.

Application

Nominees are then sent an application form and recommendations are requested.

Training

Once accepted, participants must attend both weekends of training before becoming a PA Forest Stewards Volunteer.

Contact

For more information about becoming a PA Forest Stewards Volunteer, use our on-line form or contact the state coordinator at:

Project Coordinator
PA Forest Stewards Volunteer Program
Penn State Department of Ecosystems Science and Management
416 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802
E-mail: RNRext@psu.edu
Phone: 1-800-235-9473

What does it take to be a PA Forest Steward?

PA Forest Stewards should have a keen interest in the future of Pennsylvania's forest resources and should be willing to demonstrate a stewardship ethic on their own woodlands. To be a PA Forest Steward you must be willing to:

  • Think of forests as more than just trees and timber. Forests serve important environmental functions as thriving biological communities comprised of many kinds of plants and animals.
  • Learn to take into account all the potential uses and benefits of forests — including environmental balance, recreation, timber, and natural beauty—as you manage forest resources.
  • Share what you learn with friends, neighbors, or others in your community.
  • Join a network of other informed woodland owners and professional natural resource managers.
  • Act responsibly in managing your forestland for future generations.

What kind of commitment is involved?

Apart from an investment in time and a commitment in spirit, there is no charge for the training. Upon completion of the program, you will be encouraged to take these four actions:

  1. With the help of a natural resource professional, develop and implement a Forest Stewardship Plan or other type of forest management plan for your woodlot.
  2. Maintain, for at least three years, an up-to-date set of reference materials (provided by the project) and be available to answer landowner questions or make referrals to natural resource professionals.
  3. In conjunction with other stewardship volunteers, make an active effort to reach out to landowners in your community. This may include using your woodlot as a stewardship demonstration area or visiting forest landowners to foster an interest in stewardship plans for their properties.
  4. Work closely with a mentor, for example, a local Bureau of Forestry service forester, to help design and implement an outreach program reflecting your skills and interests. Submit an annual summary of stewardship outreach activities to the PA Forest Stewards Volunteer Program coordinator.

Volunteers will be able to attend periodic training sessions for appropriate technical and program updates. Hundreds and, ultimately, thousands of others can learn about good forest management through this network of informed woodland owners.