Forest Land and Comprehensive Plans

Posted: October 17, 2018

New Publication Encourages Counties and Municipalities to Consider the Importance of Pennsylvania’s Forest Land in Comprehensive Plans

Forests, or woodlands, are present in nearly every county and municipality across Pennsylvania, providing a broad range of essential economic, environmental, health, and recreational benefits to residents and visitors alike. Forests are the foundation of a $19 billion forest products industry and are a key component of the $21.5 billion outdoor recreation industry in Pennsylvania. They also are an essential component of the green infrastructure that contributes valuable ecosystem services, such as pollution mitigation, stormwater management, watershed protection, and air quality to counties and municipalities. Yet many public officials and citizens alike are unaware of how vital a role Pennsylvania’s forests play in shaping what they love best about their communities.

Paul J. Solomon, a Shrewsbury Township Supervisor, planning professional, and forest landowner, aims to change that. With co-author Jeanne M. Riley, these two volunteers have developed a publication directed to county and municipal policymakers and planning professionals that highlights the importance of forests and brings attention to the many threats they now face. The authors encourage taking stock of the many benefits forests provide when developing county and municipal comprehensive plans. They also advise developing land use management strategies that conserve forests as unique natural resources, as is provided for
in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. The publication includes an overview of the various tools available to protect forests, using thoughtful land use planning to ensure retention of forested land, and to encourage the responsible practice of sustainable forestry, an essential economic activity within Pennsylvania. Lastly, the publication encourages public officials to educate their citizens about how much forests contribute to the quality and character of life in their communities.

The authors, who developed this publication as Pennsylvania Forest Steward volunteers under the auspices of the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, are devoted advocates for the health and sustainable management and use of forests. A private forest landowner and Master Watershed Steward, Paul Solomon resides in New Freedom, PA. Now retired, he served as a senior planner for the York County Planning Commission and was later employed by the Baltimore County Office of Planning and Zoning within their Division of Comprehensive Planning. Paul is a graduate of Georgetown and Penn State Universities, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences as well as a Master’s degree in Regional Planning from the university. He also has served as a Shrewsbury Township Supervisor since 2000. Jeanne Riley is a private forest landowner and, with her husband, a steward of approximately 190 acres of forest and agricultural land in Spruce Creek, Huntingdon County, PA, including a family legacy property now managed by multiple generations.

Many citizens, public officials, and even landowners themselves, take forests, and the many benefits they provide, for granted. With this publication, the authors hope to encourage the enlightened planning necessary to quantify just how important forests are to each locality and the development of strategies for protecting this critical natural resource into the future.

The publication, entitled, Sustaining and Improving Pennsylvania’s Forest Land through Comprehensive Plans: The Vital Role of Counties and Municipalities, is available free-of-charge, upon request, from the Center for Private Forests at Penn State, 1-800-235-9473.