DCNR State Forest Resource Management Plan

State Forest Resource Management Plan
Home
Executive Summary
Overview
Communications
Ecological Considerations
Forest Health Components
Geology/Minerals
Soils
Water
Flora
Fauna
Recreation
Silviculture/Timber
Non-timber Forest Products
Infrastructure


Glossary

Comments

Public Meeting Schedule

Forestry Home

 

Get Acrobat Reader

ECOLOGICAL
CONSIDERATIONS

 

Table of Contents

Introduction
Ecological Units
Biodiversity Conservation
Bioreserve System
Natural Areas and Wild Areas
Old Growth
Fragmentation and Connectivity
Monitoring
Critical Research Needs

 

Introduction

Forest ecosystem management is the implementation of practices that promote the long-term health of the forested systems. Its aim is the maintenance of ecosystem integrity from a landscape perspective in order to accommodate short-term stresses and adapt to long-term changes. The first operative principal of ecosystem management is to keep the complex interdependencies among organisms, communities, and natural processes within an ecosystem intact and functioning over long periods of time. Other key elements include the maintenance of a native diversity of plants and animals and the proper functioning of nutrient, water and energy cycles.

Ecological indicators measure the relative success or failure of ecosystem management practices. In general, the objectives of ecosystem management are met when indicators of ecological health are stable or improving, thus allowing for natural ecosystem dynamics. The application of ecosystem management should guarantee that resource management activities (i.e., timber, wildlife, recreation, water, etc.) are compatible with the long-term ecological health of the total forest ecosystem as measured by these indicators.

The goal of ecosystem management is to maintain the health of the forest ecosystem. The objective of this goal is to maintain designated indicators of ecological health at acceptable levels. In order to achieve these objectives, forest managers must incorporate new practices into their management plans. Ecosystem management is ultimately distinguished from other management plans by these practices.

Although these key elements and other ecological factors have been considered in past management strategies on state forest lands, they have not been given sufficient attention or recognition. The Ecological Considerations Section of the State Forest Resource Management Plan will address various ecological components of the forest including: ecological unit delineations, biodiversity conservation, bioreserves, natural areas, wild areas, old-growth strategy, forest fragmentation, and connectivity.

 

Ecological Units

Introduction

Sustainable ecosystem management relies on the understanding of environmental geography. Even though spatial organization of ecosystems tends toward gradations, there is some order or pattern to these systems that should be considered in the inventory and stewardship of natural resources. Ecosystem management requires that a geographic spatial framework, based on ecological parameters, be developed and implemented. The Bureau of Forestry has cooperated in three such efforts: ECOMAP (U.S. Forest Service Ecological Classification and Mapping), Landform Mapping (DCNR Topographic & Geologic Survey) and Plant Community Classification (PNDI). These three ecological unit classifications have become an integral part of the management of state forests.

ECOMAP:

The goal of ECOMAP for Pennsylvania is to provide a geographic spatial framework, based on ecological parameters that can be widely used by agencies and organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania's ECOMAP effort is directed toward coordination and building consensus. It builds upon the work of the U.S. Forest Service led collection of agencies, in which Pennsylvania participated. An eight-level hierarchy of ecological units forms the basis for the framework. In other words, it is a standardized classification and mapping system that stratifies the earth into progressively smaller areas of increasingly uniform ecological potential. These units provide a way of integrating research, inventory and monitoring information from multiple subjects and organizations for assessment across political, administrative and jurisdictional boundaries.

The Pennsylvania ECOMAP working group endorsed and adapted the concepts of the U.S. Forest Service National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units. The Forest Service, in cooperation with the Bureau of Forestry, arranged the delineation of ecological units within the Commonwealth and across state boundaries through the first five levels of the hierarchy:

1. Domain
  2. Division
    3. Province
      4. Section
        5. Subsection
          6. Landtype association (LTA)
            7. Ecological land type (ELT)
              8. Land type phase

Section and subsection units for Pennsylvania were configured for compatibility with the widely recognized physiographic provinces and sections. The Bureau of Forestry recognizes ECOMAP subsections within Pennsylvania as "Ecological Regions." (See USFS Ecomap website) For brief descriptions of Pennsylvania's ecoregions see PA Ecoregions (Adobe PDF - 98 Kb).

The Bureau of Forestry coordinated the delineation of the lower levels of the hierarchy (ELT, LTA) on, and adjacent to, state forest lands. These two levels (ELT, LTA) bear directly on resource management and planning. The LTA level is considered a landscape level unit since it represents the scale at which natural resource management plans and operations become more specific. In reference to landscapes, it should be noted that landscapes are contextual in nature rather than fixed parcels of land.

Four major considerations have shaped the conceptualization of both LTAs and ELTs for Pennsylvania. The first of these is ecological specificity, whereby the framework should be useful for segregating differing ecological conditions. The second is determination of landscape context, whereby the framework should assist resource planners and managers in recognizing where and how allowances need to be made for vicinity influences. The third is extendibility, whereby the framework should be applicable to other northeast states. The fourth is its complementarily nature with contemporary technologies of geographic information systems (GIS). The intent is to capture components of spatial information that are not easily extracted from GIS databases in an automated manner, so that combining the ECOMAP delineation with common GIS layers should enhance the value of both.

The approach used first delineated ecological land types (ELTs) in terms of landform components, since this level constitutes the building blocks of landscapes that must have substantial consistency across regions. The LTA level has a different nature in that its elements are logical aggregations of ELTs that have a commonness in their particular setting. Thus a given ELT can only belong to one LTA. LTAs tend to have considerable individuality relative to their environmental implications. The scope for consideration of the human dimension is greatest at the LTA level. Geology, orography, prevailing winds, view sheds, watersheds, connectivity, insularity, infrastructure and land-use history determine interactions among LTAs. The LTA will form the basis of our landscape management approach on state forest lands.

Landform Map:

The Landform Map of Pennsylvania is a project in progress at the Pennsylvania Geological Survey. The project originated in 1994 as a response to a request by the Bureau of Forestry. The bureau desired an updated and smaller scale version of the 1:2,000,000 scale Physiographic Province Map of Pennsylvania (Map 13, 1989) http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/maps/map13.pdf. A recompilation of that map at 1:50,000 scale was followed by digitization at 1:100,000 scale. Recognition of the potential for production of a much more detailed landform map and a strong indication of interest in such a map from the Bureau of Forestry prompted work on the Landform Map to commence early in 1997. The first version of the map, completed early in 1998, increased the number of landform subdivisions from 18 to 65. Work then began on a final map.

The current Landform Map of Pennsylvania is a detailed subdivision of the physiographic provinces within Pennsylvania. The current version has 500 subdivisions.

Landform subdivisions on the current map have been interpreted using 1:50,000-scale topographic maps with 20-foot contour intervals. Criteria for subdivision include:

  1. Subdivisions must have a topographic identity that distinguishes it from an adjacent subdivision.
  2. Subdivisions should have readily definable boundaries, but arbitrary boundaries are acceptable where necessary.
  3. Subdivisions must be large enough to show on a 1:500,000-scale map.

When completed, the landform map will comprise:

  1. A digital GIS coverage with:
    1. Landform boundaries and identification numbers for each landform.
    2. Topography in selected metric intervals.
    3. Public road network.
    4. Stream network.
    5. Names of selected cities.
  2. A digital database with the following descriptive items:
    1. Unit number, province, section, region, district, area; representative 7.5-minute quadrangle, county, area in mi2, dominant topographic form, land use boundaries, underlying rock type, geologic structure, surficial sediment, drainage pattern, maximum and minimum elevation, maximum, minimum and mean slope, maximum, minimum and mean relief, detailed description of landform.

In addition to the many small subdivisions, the new map has a new Pittsburgh Hills Section in southwestern Pennsylvania. It also removes the South Mountain in south-central Pennsylvania from the Blue Ridge Province and places it in the Ridge and Valley Province. Finally, it subdivides the former Appalachian Mountain Section into five sections: Appalachian Mountain, Susquehanna Lowland, Anthracite Valley, Anthracite Upland and Blue Mountain.

This map is a starting point for further landform analysis and subdivision. The Bureau of Forestry believes that the map will be very useful in ecosystem management; it should be useful for evaluating habitats for birds, mammals, and flora. The data associated with the landform delineations will be valuable in describing the character of specific landscapes and land patterns. It will be used to compliment ECOMAP efforts concerning land type associations.

Plant Communities:

The objective of the Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania classification is to categorize and describe the terrestrial and palustrine plant communities of Pennsylvania. A plant community is a group of plant populations that shares a common environment and interacts with animal populations and the physical environment.

This classification is a product of the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI). PNDI is a partnership between DCNR's Bureau of Forestry, the Pennsylvania Science Office of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

This classification system has been related to The Nature Conservancy's international vegetation classification system. This allows the user to compare Pennsylvania's plant community types to communities that occur throughout eastern North America. Forested and woodland community types are also linked to the Society of American Foresters' Forest Cover Types of the United States and Canada.

This document is intended to be usable by a variety of agencies and organizations. Its potential applications include mapping, environmental impact assessment, development planning, site selection for long term monitoring and a variety of other activities related to conservation. It is also be useful in providing a common language to researchers and managers, as well as for educators.

Plant communities may be described at many different scales¾from the small vernal pond community, to the Northeastern Deciduous Forest Community. The scale of a classification system is driven by its intended use. The scale of this classification is intended to be appropriate for a variety of conservation activities including monitoring, management, mapping, and conservation.

This classification effort is ongoing, and our understanding of the patterns of variation in the natural world is constantly improving. As we gather more information and come to better understand these patterns, the classification will be modified to reflect that understanding, as well as the changes in Pennsylvania's ecology and vegetation over time.

The community types are first divided into two major systems, palustrine (wetlands) and terrestrial (non-wetlands). These systems are then divided into physiognomic categories (e.g., forest, woodland, shrub land). One additional division is made within some physiognomic categories; those dominated by woody plants (forests, woodlands and shrub lands). The additional division is based on the phenology of the dominant species (conifer, broadleaf or combined conifer-broadleaf). In herbaceous wetlands, the division is between persistent and non-persistent vegetation. This hierarchical arrangement allows the user to classify a site at a more general level, if that is more appropriate, or if a specific community type cannot be determined.

Physiognomy, hydrology, species composition, ecological processes, distribution and historical land use distinguish community types. Descriptions of the types include a list of characteristic species. These species may or may not be dominant; they are either commonly associated with the community type, or they serve to distinguish that type from other closely related types. Where the community type occurs under specific, known environmental conditions, those conditions are described. Environmental descriptions may include information on soils, geology, hydrology, chemistry, hydrology and disturbance. In many cases we do not yet have sufficient information to describe the environmental processes associated with different community types.

This classification has a wide variety of potential uses. The Bureau of Forestry is using this classification to delineate plant communities on state forest lands. This plant community classification will be the most detailed land classification unit to be delineated on state forest land. It will be the basic building block for the management of the state forest system. (See Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania)

Back to Top

Policy Statement

The Bureau of Forestry will use ecological units in inventory, planning, conservation and management efforts.

 

Goals

Goal 1: To participate in the continued refinement of the Pennsylvania ECOMAP effort.
 

Objectives:

  • Cooperate with the U.S. Forest Service and surrounding states in Subsection ECOMAP update efforts.
  • Continue to work with agencies and organizations to improve the delineation of finer ECOMAP scales on state forest lands.
  • Promote ECOMAP delineation of other lands within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to facilitate information sharing and exchange.
Goal 2: To integrate ECOMAP into the inventory and management of state forest lands.
 

Objectives:

  • Use the ECOMAP subsection scale to determine strategic ecoregional goals for state forest lands.
  • Use the ECOMAP subsection scale to stratify forest inventory plot analysis on state forest lands.
  • Use the ECOMAP subsection scale to perform several analyses including bioreserve planning, connectivity analysis, biodiversity and conservation.
  • Use the ECOMAP LTA scale to delineate landscapes on state forest lands.
  • Use the ECOMAP LTA scale to determine landscape context and determine landscape goals on state forest lands See LTA article (Adobe PDF - 42 Kb), Landscape exam (Adobe PDF - 45 Kb).
  • Analyze the usefulness of the ECOMAP ELT scale in managing state forest lands.
Goal 3: To use landform classifications in the description and management of landscapes on state forest lands.
 

Objectives:

  • Use landform descriptions to characterize landscapes on state forest lands.
  • Refine LTAs using landform information and mapping.
  • Use landform information in the formulating of LTAs or landscape goals on state forest lands.
Goal 4: To use plant community classification as the basic management unit on state forest lands.
 

Objectives:

  • Delineate all plant communities on state forest lands.
  • Map all forest communities to the finest scale described in the Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania.
  • Delineate and map non-forest communities on state forest natural and wild areas to the finest scale described in the Terrestrial and Wetland Plant Communities of Pennsylvania.
  • Promote use of the Terrestrial and Palustrine Plant Communities of Pennsylvania on other lands within the Commonwealth to facilitate information sharing and exchange.
Goal 5: To participate in the continued refinement of the Pennsylvania community classification effort.
 

Objectives:

  • Expand our understanding of the range, ecology, extent, species composition and distribution of plant communities.
  • Support the development of an aquatic classification system for the Commonwealth and state forest lands.
  • Continue to refine the PNDI plant community classification.

 

Actions

  • Submit a revised ECOMAP (Section and Sub-section) version for Pennsylvania to the United States Forest Service for consideration into the national mapping effort.
  • Continue to work with DCNR Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey to refine the Physiographic Provinces and Sections within Pennsylvania. Work with DCNR's Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee (EMAC), Pennsylvania Biological Survey (PABS), local land managers, and others to determine strategic goals for the various ecoregions in the state. Apply the strategic goals to the management of the State Forests.
    • The Bureau of Forestry will utilize the listings (Work Group Notes) generated at the August 9, 2000, joint EMAC/PABS Conference on Bioreserve Strategy.
  • Continue to work with forest districts to refine landscape delineations on state forest lands. LTA article (Adobe PDF - 42 Kb)
  • Determine landscape goals for each LTA on state forest lands through the landscape examination process. Landscape exam (Adobe PDF - 45 Kb)
  • Analyze the usefulness of the ECOMAP ELT scale data to determine its utility for State Forest land planning and management.
  • Work with the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey to increase the availability of the Landform data to its finest scale.
  • Refine and edit all land unit community classifications during scheduled landscape exams.
  • Seek input from field practitioners and others to refine the Terrestrial and Plant Communities of Pennsylvania for potential inclusion in the next iteration of the classification.

Back to Top

Biodiversity Conservation

Introduction

A key element in maintaining ecosystem integrity and viability is the conservation of biological diversity. Biological diversity, also known as biodiversity, is the variety and abundance of species, their genetic composition, and the communities, landscapes and ecosystems in which they occur. It is a foundation of life, serving as building blocks for ecosystems and as an indicator for ecosystem health. Biodiversity is important to our economy and our way of life. It provides raw materials, medicines and food to help meet our everyday needs.

In Pennsylvania, 156 species of native vascular plants and vertebrates are classified as extinct; an additional 351 species are considered endangered or threatened. In addition, 56 percent of Pennsylvania's wetlands have been destroyed since 1780. Currently, habitat destruction and fragmentation, invasive species and pollution are the greatest threats to biodiversity.

Managing state forest lands for biodiversity will require the cooperation of a broad and diverse group of resource management agencies and the support of the public. In Pennsylvania, management of the various species is divided among the Game Commission, the Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Due to the diverse authority and mandates for species management and ownership of ecosystems, cooperation and coordination is critical to success.

Recommendations concerning biodiversity conservation are contained in an inter-agency report entitled A Heritage for the 21st Century: Conserving Pennsylvania's Native Biological Diversity. This report resulted from a major effort by a group of agencies and organizations to define the importance, status and issues concerning biodiversity conservation in Pennsylvania.

Recently a Report of the Pennsylvania 21st Century Environment Commission was presented to the Governor. A portion of the report focused on preserving natural diversity, and it contained 20 recommendations relating to natural diversity.

Both reports have involved substantial input from a host of individuals, organizations and agencies, including DCNR personnel. The bureau will give careful consideration to the recommendations in both reports.

The Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership is a recently formed organization whose goal is to promote the conservation of native biological diversity within the Commonwealth. The Partnership is embarking on developing a strategic plan concerning biodiversity conservation in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the above-mentioned reports, the DCNR Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee has submitted recommendations concerning the management of natural genetic diversity on state forest lands. These recommendations were used extensively in developing goals and objectives.

 

Policy Statement

The maintenance and restoration of ecoregional biological diversity will be a key consideration in resource management efforts on state forest lands.

 

Goal

Goal 1: To conserve or enhance ecoregional biological diversity through the management of state forest lands.

Objectives:

  • Cooperate and coordinate with the DCNR Office of Biodiversity in the conservation of biological diversity on state forest lands.
  • Conduct species reviews using the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) system prior to conducting activities resulting in disturbance on state forest lands.
  • Cooperate with the PNDI program to maintain an inventory of endangered, threatened, rare and unique species and communities on state forest lands.
  • Educate staff and state forest users in the conservation of biological diversity.
  • Develop, initiate and conduct inventories on species and areas of special concern on state forest lands.
  • Promote the conservation of biological diversity through land acquisitions and designation of natural areas (Adobe PDF - 400 Kb), wild areas (Adobe PDF - 405 Kb), special management areas, and public plant sanctuaries on state forest land.
  • Encourage natural regeneration and promote the use of suitable native plants and animals for any management activity on state forest lands.
  • Promote the use of native germplasm (including native germplasm of native species) for management on state forests.
  • See Flora and Fauna sections for additional goals.

Back to Top

Guidelines

Management of Natural Genetic Diversity on Pennsylvania State Forest Lands

Introduction

These guidelines apply to management actions by the Bureau of Forestry that could influence the natural species and genetic diversity of plants and animals on state forest land (SFL). Although the State Forests have been influenced by human activities in the last 300 years, their natural diversity has been well preserved compared with other regions of the country and world where plantation forestry has been widely practiced. The natural diversity of plants and animals is probably relatively intact on all but a small percentage of SFL, and therefore its conservation is a feasible and desirable management goal.

A common element in most of the following guidelines is the concept of "nativeness." In the context of management decisions, a plant or animal is "native" if it is indigenous to the locality under consideration. In most cases, this will be known to the forester through intimate acquaintance with the landscape. In cases of uncertainty, published atlases, particularly The Vascular Flora of Pennsylvania: Annotated Checklist and Atlas by Rhoads and Klein and Atlas of United States Trees, Vols. 1 & 4 by Little, are sufficiently detailed in their depiction of species' distributions that one can resolve occurrence down to the scale of county or lower. A species that has historically occurred wild in just a portion of Pennsylvania is considered non-native in the remainder of the Commonwealth.

Atlases and conventional understanding tell us only whether the species is native to the locality. The second dimension of "nativeness" is whether the population is native. After the last glaciation, tree species migrated to roughly their current distributions by about 5000 years ago, and populations that have evolved in place since that time are said to be autochthonous. This word means much the same as indigenous, aboriginal, and native, but it also conveys the idea of "origin." Each autochthonous population has literally originated in its environment, though its ancestors may have come from elsewhere, because it is the result of generations of natural selection by the conditions of that environment. Autochthonous populations of the same species occupying different environments some miles apart (or even much closer for many herbaceous species) may differ genetically in physiologically important respects even while appearing to be morphologically identical. Populations separated by greater distances are likely to be even more different genetically, because at greater distances their environments are likely to be more dissimilar and because greater distances reduce the homogenizing influence of gene migration between populations. Adaptation to very local conditions seems to be less important for birds and large mammals than for plants, but less vagile members of the animal kingdom may show genetic adaptation to local environments in the same way as plants.

Management should strive to preserve, as well as possible, natural patterns of genetic variation in our native species. This is the essence of protecting natural genetic diversity. There are two reasons why this is desirable. The first is to avoid loss of genetically unique populations because they may have unexpected economic or ecological value. Genetically unique populations are likely to be encountered at the edges of species' natural ranges (many plants reach their northernmost or southernmost limits in Pennsylvania), in small populations isolated from the main range of the species (the small Bear Meadows population of black spruce is 50 miles from other populations of the species and is also the most southern population in a species that ranges over several million square miles), and in populations that occupy unique habitats (particularly dry, wet, cold, etc. for the species). The genetic diversity represented by populations like these will be the source of adaptation to environmental changes that will inevitably occur in the near or distant future.

The second reason is to avoid ecological and economic risks. In some long-term provenance studies, non-native tree populations initially appeared to grow as well or better than the autochthonous population of the same species, but then declined in later decades. Results like this reveal a subtle but ultimately critical lack of genetic adaptation to the environment. Some pathologists believe that this sort of genetic mal-adaptation is the ultimate cause of all tree "decline" syndromes, which always start with a predisposing stress that the tree cannot quite handle. Decline syndromes lead to premature death, which of course may not occur until age 50 or 100 in a tree that would otherwise have lived for several centuries. Widespread declines can be very important forest health issues.

Although non-native species and populations usually do not thrive as well as indigenous organisms in undisturbed habitats, there are many notable examples of non-native species that have become "naturalized" in our forests and other natural communities. Some naturalized species have succeeded so well that they harm other species and even threaten ecosystem balance. Purple loosestrife, ailanthus, zebra mussel, gypsy moth, and chestnut blight fungus are examples of aggressive, non-native species whose spread has both economic and ecological impacts. The potential impact of deliberately employing non-native American species, or even non-autochthonous populations of native species, can be similar to the spread of naturalized European or Asiatic species. Every case represents a disruption to an ecosystem that has evolved in place for thousands of years and is, therefore, a potential threat to ecosystem health. A policy protecting natural genetic diversity on SFL should address the spread of aggressive, non-native plants and animals.

Natural forest regeneration is the norm on SFL, but planting is sometimes necessary to enrich the species composition of a regenerating stand, restore a species to an area from which it has been lost, or to correct natural regeneration failures. Also, there is increasing use of planting of wild species to restore or recreate non-forest plant communities, such as those found in wetlands. Also, there are high-profile examples of the reintroduction of animal species to regions from which they have been extirpated.

The Bureau recognizes that it is rarely possible, for practical reasons, to replant or restock with plants or animals that are precisely autochthonous to the immediate locality. For this reason, forest geneticists use the concept of "seed zones" or, more broadly, genetic conservation zones to govern the human movement of tree seed. The concept is applicable to any wild plant or animal species that is moved around for purposes of revegetation or restocking. Genetic conservation zones are areas within which the biological risks of moving organisms from their native origin are believed to be acceptably small. Laws in some countries, notably Europe, define zones delineating the permissible movement of tree seed. However, the Bureau believes that genetic conservation zones serve better as guidelines than as rules because no map will be equally applicable to all species.

Genetic conservation zones were delineated for Pennsylvania by Peters (1998 ) based upon the well-documented fact that intraspecific genetic variation patterns can be largely explained by climatic variation. Peters' zones, five primary and 13 secondary zones, were derived primarily from multivariate analysis of long-term weather records at Pennsylvania stations. Secondary consideration was given to physiographic province as a surrogate measure of the edaphic dimension of plant habitat. Elevation was one of 37 environmental variables used in the analysis, but no attempt was made to define elevation zones (which may be ecologically important). There is some correspondence between Peters' zones and DCNR's ecological regions as shown in the following table and figure. These genetic conservation zones are the best available guidelines for employing native germplasm in revegetation or restocking programs. They are applicable to plants and terrestrial invertebrates and vertebrates with limited vagility.

Table showing plant conservation zones and corresponding ecological regions

 

Graphic of PA showing plant genetic conservation zones

Figure 1. - Plant Genetic conservation zones for Pennsylvania (Peters 1998).

The Bureau acknowledges that in some regions of the country, notably the southern pine and Douglas-fir regions, the practice of forestry includes the use of tree varieties that have been selected and bred for high yield or other economically important characteristics. In a sense, this form of forestry is not much different from agriculture; the crop rotation period is just considerably longer. Experience in both forestry and agriculture has shown that the development and deployment of high-yielding varieties is successful only when combined with other intensive cultural practices (planting, monocultures, fertilization, weed control, etc.). In general, high-yielding varieties do not pay, and may even fail, under non-optimized growing conditions. The Bureau feels that high-yielding varieties and highly intensive silviculture have limited applicability to Pennsylvania SFL. The conservation of natural genetic diversity will continue to be important in Pennsylvania forestry as long as natural regeneration continues to dominate Pennsylvania forestry practice.

On the other hand, there are some legitimate roles for tree breeding and artificial genetic selection on Pennsylvania SFL, and these are in the realm of "assisting" nature in the face of problems of anthropogenic origin. For example, the introduction of the chestnut blight fungus eliminated chestnut as a prominent component of Pennsylvania forests. There appears to be little inherent resistance to the blight in American chestnut, but Asiatic species carry resistance genes. These can be transferred to American chestnut through a process of hybridization and backcross breeding, and this would appear to be a very legitimate use of specially bred trees on SFL. As another example, certain naturally occurring trees of northern red oak produce particularly fast-growing progeny. Fast seedling growth is a key factor in oak planting success. Where enrichment of the oak component of the next forest community can only be accomplished through planting, using an oak seed source (within the appropriate genetic conservation zone) that is known to produce fast-growing seedlings seems to be a legitimate and even prudent course of action. Finally, it seems altogether reasonable to consider using special varieties on disturbed land when such varieties survive or grow better than native plants.

 

Guidelines and Actions

  • Exotic, invasive species (as identified by DCNR-Bureau of Forestry) will not be planted on state forest land. (See Flora Section).
  • Natural regeneration is preferred and encouraged.
  • Artificial regeneration (planting or direct seeding) should normally be used only under the following circumstances:
    • On severely disturbed areas (e.g., mine spoils) where natural reforestation would occur only slowly at best.
    • On areas that have failed to regenerate naturally.
    • For the purpose of enhancing species composition or density of natural regeneration.
  • Artificial regeneration practices that create unnaturally large, single-species blocks are prohibited unless authorized by the State Forester. These will undergo an environmental review.
  • Use of non-native species on state forest lands should be carefully considered and judiciously controlled. Any deliberate introduction of a new species should be pursued only with the most extreme caution and after review of the species' potential for adverse economic and ecological impacts.
  • Suitable native plants and animals should be the first choice for any management activity.
  • Planting or introduction of non-native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants is strongly discouraged for routine reforestation or revegetation purposes, and planting of non-native species is prohibited on campsite leases.
  • The use of non-native species are explicitly permitted for the following purposes, but only when there is reason to believe the species is non-invasive
    • for temporary amelioration of severely disturbed areas.
    • for unusually critical management objectives when native species are not a viable alternative (e.g., for biological suppression of gypsy moth).
    • for the maintenance of historically important cultural features.
    • for approved research purposes.
    • for wildlife habitat (see list of native species in Flora Section).
  • The Bureau of Forestry should actively control invasive non-native species on state forest land.
  • Timber sale proposals should address the expected impact of harvest on the spread of invasive non-native species, if any are present or anticipated.
  • DCNR, Bureau of Forestry will maintain a listing of non-native species that pose a significant threat to Pennsylvania's native germplasm, species, and communities.
  • The Bureau will monitor the impacts of non-native species on natural communities through landscape exams.
  • District or ecoregion specific strategies will be developed to prioritize circumstances and/or species where active control is warranted. Examples might include critical habitats for threatened or endangered native species or areas in which a non-native species will remain or become the dominant vegetation without control.
  • Use and spread of non-native germplasm (including non-native germplasm of native species) should be carefully considered, judiciously controlled, and monitored.
  • Except when special circumstances permit the use of non-native stock, as described above, or when genetically modified planting stock is used to meet specific management objectives, the seed of all planting stock used on state forest land should be native (autochthonous) to the genetic conservation zone in which it is being used.
  • All plant material distributed from Penn Nursery should be labeled as to origin. In addition, qualifying lots should carry Source-Identified ("yellow tag") Certification by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Plant Industry. "Source-identified" refers to "seed or plants grown from a natural population or a plantation for which the geographic location and the genetic background are clearly defined, and produced so as to assure genetic identity."
  • All plant material used on stat forest land, whenever possible, should have (or qualify for) yellow tag certification, except under special circumstances as indicated above.
  • When genetically modified planting stock (including hybrids) is used to meet specific management objectives, its use should be fully rationalized and justified. Examples of instances where such a use might be justified include resistant varieties of species threatened by disease or insects and varieties of difficult-to-plant hardwood species that exhibit rapid juvenile growth and are desirable for enrichment purposes.
  • Silvicultural guidelines should serve to conserve forest community genetic quality and diversity. · Harvesting guidelines should preserve less common species (see Reservation Guidelines in Fauna Section).
  • Special protection should be given to isolated species populations that are likely to be genetically unique because of their distance from the main range of the species or because of the unusual environment in which they grow.
  • Leave trees should be representative of their species in that stand. Exceptions to this general policy may be exercised when it is clearly ecologically sound practice to favor certain trees because of a putative genetic trait (e.g., beech trees free of beech bark disease) (see Reservation Guidelines in Fauna Section).
  • Advance regeneration should be as abundant as possible to favor the enhancement of fitness through rigorous natural selection.

Back to Top

Bioreserve System

Introduction

All state forest land will function as a bioreserve on many levels. The state forest system is being managed with the overall goal of sustaining functioning ecological systems including: maintaining a diversity of plant and animal species and communities, maintaining proper functioning of nutrient, water, and energy cycles; and maintaining biological diversity.

Although the state forests are being managed to promote sustainability of ecosystems, designated areas of state forest lands are managed to promote specific ecological values. These areas are distinguished, zoned and managed distinctly because they provide significant contributions to the ecological or biological resources of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

A defined state forest land bioreserve system should be viewed in an ecological context. The bioreserve system should merge into an overall statewide bioreserve strategy and into an ecoregional bioreserve context. The degree that state forest lands will contribute to a Commonwealth-wide or ecoregional bioreserve system will vary greatly depending on the area of the state or ecoregion.

The Pennsylvania state forest bioreserve system will be promoted through land management zoning. Lands that have been zoned by the bureau to promote or reserve specific ecological or biological values will anchor the system. These areas include natural areas, wild areas, and special resource management areas. The limited resource management zone and the aesthetic/buffer zone will also play integral parts in the bioreserve system. The state forest bioreserve system will require both active and passive management.

The purposes of the state forest bioreserve system include:

  • Representation of all native biological communities occurring on state forest lands. This includes replicated healthy examples of appropriate Pennsylvania terrestrial and palustrine plant communities, aquatic habitats and subterranean habitats stratified by ecoregions.
  • Conservation of existing rare, unique and imperiled species on state forest lands. This includes federal and state-listed species and Pennsylvania species of special concern.
  • Provision of reference areas for analysis of ecosystem management. Reference areas will need to provide for various successional stages including old growth.
  • Maintenance and restoration of regional ecological linkages. The concept of connectivity needs to be considered in the bioreserve system.

The call to create a class of "protected lands" in Pennsylvania has been heard at various times in the Commonwealth's history. While not specifically articulated as bioreserve strategies, different ages have comprehended the need to protect, in special ways, the state's natural resources. The rationales and mechanisms for designating protected lands have varied over the centuries, resulting in multiple schemes with diverse outcomes. For example, on July 11,1681, in a Charter of Rights to the colonists, William Penn made the provision that "in clearing the ground, care be taken, to leave one acre of trees for every five acres cleared (Birkinbine, 1886)."

Championing nature "reserves" was a hallmark of Mira L. Dock. In 1899, The Forester reported that she gave lectures in the Commonwealth on the topics of national reserves, state reserves, municipal reserves, and local reserves (DeCoster, 1995).

As early as 1908, the Forestry Department recommended preservation of remnant virgin forests. From the beginning, state forestry informally set aside areas of special beauty or interest on state lands. In 1920, an act "Regarding Unique and Unusual Groves of Trees" was approved by the legislature; the Forestry Department quickly began operating seven forest parks covering more than 200 acres. By 1921 there were nine Forest Monuments encompassing 1,200 acres, and two special Scenic Areas. Forest Monuments were forerunners of today's Natural Areas.

1970 The PA Department of Environmental Resources (DER) is created. The functions of the State Forest Commission are transferred to the state Environmental Quality Board. The DER Bureau of Forestry Resource Plans incorporate a new objective, "to protect areas of scenic, historic, geologic, or ecological significance through the establishment of Natural Areas which will remain in an undisturbed state, with development and maintenance being limited to that required for health and safety."

1975 The Environmental Quality Board reaffirms the state's Natural Areas policy. Slight modifications add better protection to this class of protected land. The Board approves, in April, thirteen original Natural Areas and 31 proposed new ones.

1979 In April 18 of the original Natural Areas are designated by the Bureau of Forestry and the P A Fish & Boat Commission as "special regulation areas" for the protection of all amphibians and reptiles. Only a valid collectors permit allows the taking, catching, killing, and possessing of any species of Pennsylvania amphibians or reptiles.

1982 In February 7 Natural Areas are added to the Bureau of Forestry's Natural Area system, special regulations areas for amphibian and reptile protection.

1985 In April 3 Natural Areas are added to the Bureau of Forestry's Natural Area system, special regulations areas for amphibian and reptile protection. This brings the total of amphibian and reptile special protection areas to 28 sites.

1993 Eighteen new Natural Areas and one Wild Area are added to the system in September. One previously designated Natural Area is enlarged, and one designated Natural Area is re-designated as a "Special Use Area."

1993 The Bureau of State Parks begins the Natural Areas program with designation of 9 sites. The program is the result of the State Parks 2000 initiative. By 1999 it contains 22 Natural Areas comprising nearly 12,000 acres. Very little active management is allowed in these areas. They are set aside for scientific observations of natural processes, to protect examples of unique and typical plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.

1993 The Bureau of State Parks begins the Special Management Areas program. By

1999 it contains 8 sites of less than 1000 acres. Areas are actively managed to protect the resources that prompted designation.

1995 A special task force, the PA Biodiversity Technical Committee, in A Heritage for the 21st Century: Conserving Pennsylvania 's Native Biological Diversity, recommends expanding and coordinating existing programs for establishment of biological reserves in Pennsylvania (S. G. Thorne, et al., 1995). Additionally, they recommend establishing a long-term monitoring and inventorying program, and challenge state agencies to review species management programs where management for single species may have negative effects on natural diversity.

1995 The Bureau of Forestry publishes a "blueprint for the management of our forest resources," called Penn 's Woods: Sustaining Our Forests. This document commits the agency to biodiversity conservation; ecosystem management; establishing a system of public and private wild plant sanctuaries; developing a strategy to promote old-growth forest systems on state lands; reviewing the effects of timber management on landscape ecology; and retaining the wild character and ecological integrity of state forest lands.

1995 The Bureau of Forestry initiates the Public Wild Plant Sanctuary program pursuant to the Wild Resources Conservation Act (1982). The Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) estimates that 40% of the state's species of special concern occur on public lands. Lands eligible for inclusion in the Public Wild Plant Sanctuary program are State Forest lands, State Parks, and lands managed by the Game and Fish & Boat Commissions.

1998 Governor Ridge's 21st Century Environment Commission Report is published in September. Under the section on Natural Diversity Conservation, the Commissioners warn of urgency" in the need for natural diversity conservation. They call for defining and setting conservation priorities for species, habitats and biological communities; developing a common set of criteria for identifying the elements deserving attention; establishing comprehensive long-term programs to inventory, assess, research, monitor and manage natural diversity; and develop and implement a comprehensive and dynamic natural diversity management policy and strategy for public (mandated) and private (voluntary) lands.

1999 The third party, independent review team lead by Scientific Certification Systems, issues its Annual Audit in September. The Audit provides BOF comments to Recommendation 18, Ecological Reserve Program: "EMAC has designated a bioreserve subcommittee that is currently developing guidelines for a bioreserve system in PA for state forest lands.

1999 The Bureau of State Parks designates 3 Conservation Areas and 1 Preserve. This program is Bureau-level and is based on deed restrictions and covenants that limit development and the types of recreational use.

1999 The Bureau of State Parks, participates in the Public Plant Sanctuary Program, with one site designated and a second area under consideration and the Bureau of Forestry elects to make the Public Wild Plant Sanctuary program a formal part of the Forest Resource Plan.

 

Policy Statement

The state forest bioreserve system will contribute to the long term survival of species occurring on state forest lands by conserving populations of rare, unique, and endangered species, as well as other ecologically significant populations and examples of all native plant communities, including old-growth communities.

 

Goals

Goal 1: To establish and maintain a bioreserve system within the state forests.
 

Objectives:

  • Review existing areas zoned for conserving specific ecological/biological resource values to determine if they are appropriate to be included in a bioreserve system.
 

Actions:

  • Review and list areas zoned for conserving specific ecological/biological resource values. Review existing information on Special Management Areas, Natural Areas, Wild Areas, and Public Plant Sanctuaries and PNDI sites.
  • Conduct preliminary evaluations of these areas to determine and evaluate presence of significant biotic/ecological elements.
  • Determine which areas are appropriate for inclusion in a bioreserve system based on stated purposes.
  • Conduct a preliminary gap analysis to determine if these areas meet the purposes of the state forest bioreserve system. Determine if additional needs are desired.
 
  • Review areas zoned as Topographic Limitation and Buffers adjacent to those areas proposed for inclusion in the Bioreserve system such as Special Management Areas, Natural Areas, Wild Areas, and Public Plant Sanctuaries.
 

Actions:

  • Conduct preliminary evaluations of these areas to determine and evaluate presence of significant biotic/ecological elements or enhancement of the conservation of significant biotic/ecological elements.
  • Determine which areas are appropriate for inclusion in a bioreserve system based on stated purposes.
  • Conduct a preliminary gap analysis to determine if these areas meet the purposes of the state forest bioreserve system. Determine if additional needs are desired.
  • Each site should be evaluated based on its significance; the site should have well-documented features of exceptional quality, making it an integral part of any bioreserve strategy for the Commonwealth.
 
  • Conduct spatial analysis of all potential sites to determine effective geographic distribution.
 

Actions:

  • Conduct a gap analysis based on above-mentioned purposes and spatial considerations to determine additional needs to the system.
  • Work with Pennsylvania Gap Analysis Program to determine further potential sites.
  • Each site should be evaluated based on its significance; the site should have well-documented features of exceptional quality, making it an integral part of any bioreserve strategy for the Commonwealth.
 
  • Work with the DCNR Ecosystem Management Advisory Committee (EMAC) to determine efficacy of preliminary state forest bioreserve system.
  • Search other secondary data sources and conduct reconnaissance to identify additional potential sites.
  • Develop site-specific management plans for areas that are not under special or restricted management regimes.
 

Actions:

  • Sites chosen for inclusion in the state forest bioreserve system will be identified and delineated on the basis of biotic features. Once these features have been identified and inventoried, the requirements of each of these biological resources can be enumerated to the extent that they are known.
  • Specific management plans for each site will be developed and included within the overall State Forest Resource Management Plans.
Goal 2: To monitor and update the state forest bioreserve system portfolio periodically in conjunction with the forest management planning process.
 

Objectives:

  • Periodically review existing components of the state forest bioreserve system to determine efficacy.
  • Review and update the components of the bioreserve system during the five-year state forest management planning cycles.
  • Modify the components of the system based on new information to meet the purposes of a bioreserve system.
Goal 3: To coordinate the role of the state forest bioreserve system within a Commonwealth-wide bioreserve system.
 

Objectives:

  • Participate in the discussion and framework of a statewide bioreserve system.
  • Participate in the Pennsylvania Biodiversity Partnership efforts in the development of a statewide biodiversity strategic plan.
  • Integrate as appropriate state forest bioreserve system into an approved, final statewide bioreserve system.
  • Cooperate with other organizations (such as The Nature Conservancy) involved in developing bioreserve systems.

Back to Top

Natural Areas and Wild Areas

Introduction

The Conservation and Natural Resources Act, Act 18 of 1995, states that "The department is authorized and directed to set aside, within the state forests, unusual or historical groves of trees, or natural features, especially worthy of permanent preservation, to make the same accessible and convenient for public use and to dedicate them in perpetuity to the people of the state for their recreation and enjoyment," and "To set aside when in the judgment of the department it is deemed necessary, for exclusive use for parks, parkways, and other places of scientific, scenic, or wildlife interest, any state-owned lands which are now or which may hereafter be under the jurisdiction of the department."

The department has long recognized the value and need for setting aside unusual or interesting areas of state forest land. As early as 1908, the department recommended preserving several virgin hemlock stands that had been left by lumbermen because of inaccessibility. These virgin stands were given legal status in May 1921, when the legislature "…authorized the department to set aside unusual or historic groves of trees." The State Forest Commission passed a resolution in September 1921, describing these areas as forest monuments. The commission designated thirteen monuments.

The term "monument" was proper for the type of area that was set aside under this early effort; however, in the 1960s, it became apparent that in addition to the virgin forests and rare bogs, there was a need for, and considerable public interest in, setting aside additional areas where natural succession could be observed with little or no influence by man. This new concept included preserving typical examples of second growth forests and common plant communities. Coincidental with an expanding interest in preserving representative natural ecosystems was a public interest in large forest areas that would be retained in a wild or undeveloped condition.

In December 1970, the state forest commission passed a resolution changing the name from state forest monument to state forest natural area. The resolution placed the 13 areas under a new definition that more aptly described the broadened concept. The resolution also created a new class of state forest land called "wild areas" and designated Quehanna as the state's first wild area.

To date, the Bureau of Forestry has designated 61 state forest natural areas totaling 69,182 acres of state forest lands. In addition, there are currently 14 state forest wild areas encompassing 110,341 acres of state forests. The Bureau of Forestry administers two additional areas of state forest lands as wild areas - Quebec Run (4,765 acres) and Hammersley (30,253 acres). The department lacks mineral ownership on these tracts precluding their official designations.

A natural area is an area of unique scenic, historic, geologic or ecological value that will be maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate, usually without direct human intervention. They are set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.

The guidelines governing the administration of natural areas are as follows:

  1. No human habitation is permitted, except primitive-type backpack camping in designated areas.
  2. Access for all but essential administrative activities is restricted to foot trails and non-motorized watercraft, except in designated areas.
  3. Buildings and other improvements are restricted to the minimum required for public health, safety and interpretive aids.
  4. Timber harvesting is not permitted except as may be required for maintenance of the public safety.
  5. Leases and mineral development are prohibited; however, subsurface oil and gas rights may be leased where no surface use or disturbance of any kind will take place on the natural area. New rights-of-way are prohibited except for designated utility corridors in the Bucktail Natural Area.

A wild area is an extensive area, which the general public will be permitted to see, use and enjoy for such activities as hiking, hunting, and fishing. No development of a permanent nature will be permitted in order to retain the undeveloped character of the area. These areas will be administered according to the principals of forest protection and management applied to department-managed lands with the following restrictions:

  1. Campsite leases will be prohibited.
  2. No new public access roads will be constructed. Existing roads will remain open only where there is a public need. All unauthorized vehicles shall be prohibited, with the exception of licensed vehicles that may be operated only on open public roads.
  3. Forest trail use will be restricted to foot travel, horseback riding and bicycling. Handicapped persons, in hand- or electrically powered wheelchairs; or in other electrically powered vehicles adapted for this use, may operate them on designated trails.
  4. Buildings and other improvements will be restricted to the minimum required for public health, safety and interpretive aids.
  5. Leases, mineral development and new rights-of-way will be prohibited, provided that subsurface oil and gas rights may be leased where no surface use or disturbance of any kind will take place on the wild area.
  6. Overnight camping will be limited to the backpack primitive type.

Natural Areas Map (Adobe PDF - 400 Kb)

Wild Areas Map (Adobe PDF - 405 Kb)

 

Policy Statement

The bureau will protect selected areas of special scientific, scenic or ecological significance through the establishment of natural and wild areas.

 

Goals

Goal 1: To protect areas of scenic, historic, geologic or ecological significance through the establishment of natural areas that will remain in an undisturbed state, with development and maintenance being limited to that required for public health and safety.
 

Objectives:

  • Continue to evaluate areas of state forest lands for inclusion in the natural area system.
  • Evaluate the natural area program to determine its contribution to the state forest bioreserve system and old growth strategy.
  • Continue cooperation with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in the establishment of reptile and amphibian protection areas within selected state forest natural areas.
 

Actions:

  • Propose a new Natural Area in the Tiadaghton State Forest - Rock Run - 1350 acres encompassing the scenic Rock Run stream and its magnificent waterfalls.
  • Propose expansion of the Bruce Lake Natural Area in the Delaware State Forest to include an additional 1532 acres.
  • Propose redesignation of the Goat Hill Serpentine Barrens Natural Area as a Public Plant Sanctuary to facilitate the management of several unique plant and animal species and plant communities.
  • Change policy on camp leases to: Existing Forest Camp leases will be permitted to remain in the Bucktail Natural Area. If a cabin on a Forest Camp Lease is destroyed by fire, storm, flood or other natural causes the lease will be relocated to a site outside of the Natural Area or terminated according to the wishes of the lessee.
Goal 2: To set aside certain areas of land known as wild areas where development or disturbance of a permanent nature will be prohibited, thereby preserving the wild character of the area.
 

Objectives:

  • Continue to evaluate areas of state forest lands for inclusion in the wild area system.
  • Prepare a designation package for proposed additions to the wild area system.
  • Undergo a review of wild area guidelines to ensure consistency with maintaining the wild character of these areas and examine their contribution to the state forest bioreserve system and the old growth strategy.
  • Develop site-specific management plans for all wild areas.
 

Actions:

  • Propose new Wild Areas in the Bald Eagle State Forest (Penns Creek - 2461 acres), Elk State Forest (Square Timber/Big Run - 8461 acres), Elk and Sproul State Forests (M.K. Goddard - 4600 acres), and Delaware State Forest (Stairway - 2921 acres).
  • Propose expansions of the Thickhead Wild Area in the Rothrock State Forest, Quehanna Wild Area in the Elk and Moshannon State Forests.
  • Resolve long-standing mineral issues in the proposed Quebec Run and Hammersley Wild Areas. Propose both areas for official Wild Area designation.
  • Change policy to read: Existing Forest Camp leases will be permitted to remain in Wild Areas. If a cabin on a Forest Camp Lease is destroyed by fire, storm, flood or other natural causes the lease will be relocated to a site outside of the Wild Area or terminated according to the wishes of the lessee.

 

Guidelines

Natural Areas:

Recognizing that there is a basic need for the preservation of certain areas of forest land with either limited or no human disturbance, the following definition has been adopted for natural areas that are or will be established on state forest land.

A natural area is an area of unique scenic, historic, geologic or ecological value, which will be maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate, usually without direct human intervention. These areas are set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.

The guidelines governing the administration of natural areas are as follows:

  1. No human habitation is permitted, except that primitive type backpack camping may be permitted in designated areas only. Existing Forest Camp leases will be permitted to remain in Natural Areas. If a cabin on a Forest Camp Lease is destroyed by fire, storm, flood or other natural causes the lease will be relocated to a site outside of the Natural Area or terminated according to the wishes of the lessee.
  2. Access for all but essential administrative activities is restricted to foot travel and non-motorized watercraft, except in designated areas.
  3. Buildings and other improvements are restricted to the minimum required for public health, safety and interpretive aids.
  4. Timber harvesting is not permitted except as may be required for maintenance of the public safety.
  5. Leases and mineral development are prohibited; however, subsurface oil and gas rights may be leased where no surface use or disturbance of any kind will take place on the natural area. New rights-of-way are prohibited except for designated utility corridors in the Bucktail Natural Area.

The following operating guidelines have been developed to further refine the administrative guidelines:

Natural Area Location Factors:

Any unique or unusual biologic, geologic or historic areas can be considered for designation as natural areas. The size of these areas will generally be small but may be as large as several thousand acres. Areas recommended for natural area designation should be submitted to the State Forester by the District Forester along with a map and a complete documentation describing the character of the area. Final approval and official designation as a natural area will be by publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin with public comment.

Natural Area Management:

  • Natural areas will be left undisturbed with natural succession allowed to occur. Intervention will only be permitted when man-caused activities or events threaten its natural value.
  • A 600-foot wide management buffer will be maintained around Natural Areas except when a road, pipeline or power line serves as a boundary in which case a 300 foot wide buffer will apply.
  • Existing right-of-way expansion will be considered on an individual case basis. Expansion approval will be considered when the project will not harm the feature for which the area was designated and is justified as the alternative that will result in the least overall ecological damage to state forest lands.
  • Aerial spraying of herbicides to maintain rights-of-way within and bordering natural areas will be prohibited. Vegetation on these rights-of-way may be cut and controlled by direct spray application to cut stems.
  • Insect and disease control will be considered on an individual case basis. Control measures will be considered if the feature for which the area was designated is in jeopardy.
  • Fire control is permitted as per normal operating procedures of the Bureau of Forestry.
  • Horseback riding and handicapped apparatus equipped with electric motors may be permitted on designated, maintained trails. · No artificial regeneration will be permitted in natural areas.
  • Hunting and fishing will be permitted in natural areas unless otherwise posted.
  • The state forester must approve any management or requested activity on natural areas that will result in some form of disturbance. An environmental review must be submitted for these activities.
  • Signs will be erected at access points and where needed along roads bordering natural areas. Signs will indicate the name of the natural area, why the area was set aside and any special restrictions, which might apply.
  • The bureau and the Pennsylvania Fish Commission have designated certain natural areas as protection areas for reptiles and amphibians. Signs will be maintained stating that the taking, catching, killing or possession of any reptile or amphibian within the area is prohibited. (see Fauna Section)

Wild Areas:

Under the powers and duties assigned to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by the Administrative Code of 1929, Sec. 1902 A, states in paragraph 6, "That the department is authorized and directed to set aside, within the state forests, unusual or historical groves of trees, or natural features, especially worthy of permanent preservation, to make the same accessible and convenient for public use, and to dedicate them in perpetuity to the people of the state for their recreation and enjoyment.", and in paragraph 12, "To set aside, when, in the judgment of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, it is deemed necessary, for exclusive use for parks, parkways, and other places of scientific, scenic, historic, or wildlife interest, any state owned lands which are now or which may hereafter be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources."

Recognizing that there is a basic need for certain areas of forest land with limited human disturbance, the State Forest Commission on December 23, 1970, adopted a resolution defining wild areas.

A wild area is defined as an extensive area which the general public will be permitted to see, use and enjoy for such activities as hiking, hunting, fishing and the pursuit of peace and solitude. No development of a permanent nature will be permitted so as to retain the undeveloped character of the area. These areas will be administered according to the principals of forest protection and management applied to department-managed lands with the following restrictions:

  1. Existing Forest Camp leases will be permitted to remain in Wild Areas. If a cabin on a Forest Camp Lease is destroyed by fire, storm, flood or other natural causes the lease will be relocated to a site outside of the Wild Area or terminated according to the wishes of the lessee. New Campsite leases will be prohibited.
  2. No new public access roads will be constructed. Existing roads will remain open only where there is a public need. All unauthorized motorized conveyances or vehicles shall be prohibited with the exception of licensed vehicles, which may be operated only on open public roads.
  3. Forest trail use will be restricted to foot travel, horseback riding, and bicycling. Handicapped persons, in hand or electrically powered wheelchairs, or in or on other electrically powered vehicles adapted for this use, may operate such conveyances on designated trails.
  4. Buildings and other improvements will be restricted to the minimum required for public health, safety, and interpretive aids.
  5. Leases, mineral development, and new rights-of-way will be prohibited; provided however, that subsurface oil and gas rights may be leased where no surface use or disturbance of any kind will take place on the Wild Area. 6. Overnight camping will be limited to the backpack primitive type.

The following operating guidelines have been developed to further refine the above-mentioned restrictions.

Wild Area Location Factors

In Pennsylvania's state forest system, there are areas, due to limited activity by man, that have retained an undeveloped or wild character. These areas have already been designated as wild areas to assure that this character is perpetuated. Because of the restrictions imposed on wild areas, careful consideration must be given to alternative uses before additional areas are so designated. The size of the area should be no less than 3,000 acres and seldom more than 15,000 acres. They should be located where there are few public roads or other human-made developments such as campsites, rights-of-way, etc. Only areas where the department owns the mineral rights will be considered, and even then the geology will be studied and the value of the minerals evaluated prior to wild area designation.

Areas recommended by the District Forester for designation as additional wild areas should be submitted to the State Forester for consideration and action. The recommendation should include an outline of the proposed area on a timber type map along with comments on present resource use of the area and the need for an additional wild area. Final approval and official designation as a wild area will be following publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin with public comment.

Wild Area Management

  • Management of wild areas will be aimed at preserving the wild or undeveloped character of the area. Land use within the area will be restricted to uses that will not have a permanent or long-range effect.
  • No new public access roads will be constructed within the area. Existing Drivable trails will be closed to public vehicular travel. Use by the public of existing Public Use roads will be continued only in those instances where a public requirement has been established. Licensed motor vehicles may operate only on the open public roads. Off-road motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles, trail bikes and ATVs will not be permitted anywhere on the area.
  • Foot trail, cross-country ski trail, bridle trail, bicycle trail and handicapped trail construction will be permitted.
  • Timber management in wild areas is prohibited unless approved by the State Forester following a project review.
  • Hunting, fishing, fire control, insect and disease control, and use of herbicides, within wild areas are permitted as per normal operating procedures of the Bureau of Forestry.
  • Existing right-of-way expansion will be considered on an individual case basis. Expansion approval will be considered when justified as the alternative that will result in the least overall ecological damage. In the case of a proposed right-of-way expansion, a project review must be completed.
  • When artificial regeneration is considered in a wild area, the maintenance of endemic genotypes of native species will be encouraged through the use of local seed sources. Wild areas should be considered gene pools where endemic species and genotypes can interact and evolve with changing environmental stresses. The resulting species types can provide a reservoir of valuable genotypes for future incorporation into breeding programs. The introduction of exotic species and genotypes, which might change the character of the area, should be discouraged. See genetic diversity guidelines.
  • Signs will be erected at access points and where needed along roads bordering wild areas. Signs will indicate name of the wild area, the purpose of wild areas, and any special restrictions, which might apply.
  • Because of the diversity of areas designated as wild areas, specific guidelines will be written for each area.

Back to Top

Old Growth

Introduction

One hundred years ago, most of the forestlands of Pennsylvania lay in virtual desolation: cutover, repeatedly burned, with eroding mountainsides and silt-choked streams. This was the result of decades of exploitation and little awareness or knowledge of the need for conservation. The state's extensive forests were gone except for small, isolated patches. Today, more than 17-million acres, almost 60 percent of the Commonwealth's land area, are covered with hardwood forests that are dominated by 70 to100 year-old second- and third-growth forest communities.

The department has long-recognized the value and need for protecting old-growth communities on state forest land. As early as 1908, the department recommended preserving several virgin hemlock communities that had been left by lumbermen because of inaccessibility. These virgin tracts were designated as forest monuments in 1921. In 1970, the forest monuments were re-designated as natural areas.

During the development of the 1970-85 State Forest Resource Management Plans, all unique or unusual biological areas, including virgin and old growth tracts, were inventoried for possible natural area designation. All known virgin areas on state forest lands are currently in the state forest natural area system.

As our second- and third-growth forests continue to mature, there is an increased interest in promoting old-growth forested ecosystems. All forest seres or systems are important components of managing state forest lands under an ecosystem management approach. Thus, a strategy to incorporate the development of old-growth forested systems within the state forests is necessary.

An understanding of the components of old-growth forests is a necessary first step in the development of a strategy to conserve or enhance these systems. It is generally agreed that old-growth forests are "biologically" old and have experienced relatively little human disturbance. However, no generic definition of old growth enjoys wide acceptance. This is especially true concerning eastern deciduous forests.

Each ecosystem or biological community is unique due to its biological and physical components, the natural processes acting upon it and the influence of human impacts. Thus, developing regional or local definitions of old growth is the best way to characterize these systems.

Attempts to quantify or characterize old growth can truly be accomplished only on existing systems. As stated previously, there are relatively few of these systems remaining in Pennsylvania. Efforts are currently underway to define existing old-growth systems in some regions of the state.

However, one cannot conclusively define the character of potential old-growth systems that will develop from our second- and third-growth forests. These forests originated under different conditions than did our pre-European settlement forests. They continue to develop under dissimilar natural processes and unprecedented influences such as the chestnut blight, the gypsy moth, fire history, high populations of white-tailed deer, air pollutants and other anthropogenic stresses.

Nevertheless, there are several components or criteria that are usually considered when discussing old-growth forests including: age (biologically mature, late successional, etc.), structure (species composition, dead and down material, canopy gaps, etc.), disturbance (extent of human influences) and size (self-sustaining, allows natural processes and functions).

Perhaps the best way to discuss or describe old-growth forests is in the context of late-successional biological communities or habitats. Although some professionals use the terms "steady state" or "stable communities," old-growth systems, like all systems, are constantly shifting or changing and thus, are unable to be defined.

 

Policy Statement

Old growth systems will be protected and promoted on state forest lands.

 

Goals

Goal 1: To protect existing old growth systems on state forest lands.
 

Objectives:

  • Protect all existing virgin or old growth remnant forests by including these areas in the state forest natural area system.
  • Promote research and study on existing virgin and old growth remnant forests to fully understand the characteristics of these systems.
Goal 2: To develop and implement a strategy to promote future old growth systems on state forest lands.
 

Objectives:

  • Advance old growth forested systems on state forests lands using areas zoned to promote a successional pattern toward potential old-growth systems.
  • Maintain a minimum of 20 percent of state forestlands as potential or existing old-growth areas.
  • Allow vegetation on natural areas, selected portions of wild areas, special resource management zones, and limited resource management zones to develop into late-successional communities or old-growth systems.
  • Connect old-growth systems where practical.
 

Actions:

  • Review and refine proposed old growth areas on state forest lands. (see old growth map)
  • Promote the old growth tour as a tourism promotion piece and as a means of educating the public about our old growth resources.

Back to Top

Fragmentation and Connectivity

Introduction

The state forests account for 12 percent of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's forests. The nature and proximity of these lands is such that they represent a crucial core area of forest and critical link in maintaining the connectivity of the Commonwealth's forests in several regions of the state.

Forest fragmentation occurs when a forest becomes isolated or separated from its original forest block. This occurs usually through conversion of land to different land uses. Conversion of forests to other land use and its attendant forest fragmentation is a major concern in terms of resource management and biodiversity conservation. Fragmentation of forested areas into smaller, disconnected or partially connected tracts complicates resource management and may contribute to isolated populations of species and communities.

Historically, forest fragmentation in Pennsylvania could, for the most part, be attributed to the conversion of forests to agricultural use. In recent decades this trend has subsided and in some cases has reversed itself. The largest cause of forest fragmentation in recent years is urban development (sprawl).

State forests, for the most part, contain large, intact tracts of forested lands. Forest fragmentation, as defined above, within these large blocks is limited. However many state forests contain isolated tracts or are interspersed among forests of differing ownership. These tracts present special challenges in terms of their management for a number of ecological and economic resources.

Landscapes within the state forests are composed of three types of spatial elements: patches, corridors, and matrices, that is, every point within a landscape can be considered a patch, a corridor, or a matrix. A patch is simply an area that differs in appearance from its surroundings. This is typically known as the stand or vegetative unit. On a landscape scale, patches are imbedded in a matrix, which is simply the dominant land use as a result of the combination of cover types on an area. Patches appear on the landscape either as a result of disturbance (natural or human) or environmental conditions such a substrate, slope, aspect or other environmental factor.

The essential ecological reason that landscape patterns are important is that the rates and magnitudes of ecological processes such as the flow of energy and nutrients and the movements of plants and animals are likely to change at the interface between patches. As timber harvests or natural disturbance creates new patches, ecological concerns center on patch size distribution. As a process, disturbances typically increase the number of landscape patches and increase the amount of edge.

There are also significant economic considerations in carrying out patch management approaches through timber harvesting, prescribed fire, etc. These can include access and road management, project supervision, project efficiencies, monitoring, and operator costs.

Forest fragmentation, forest connectivity, landscape patterns and patch size are all important factors to consider in the management of any forests. The interaction of these factors is complex. These concerns are considered and addressed through various means throughout the Plan.

 

Policy Statement

Forest fragmentation, connectivity and patch distribution will be considered in management decisions affecting state forest resources.

 

Goal

Goal 1: To reduce and limit forest fragmentation and promote connectivity of high canopy forests by maintaining fluid corridors throughout the state forests.

Objectives:

  • Consider acquiring key tracts of land that are critical to limiting forest fragmentation effects on the state forests or are critical connectors of public lands.
  • Consider fragmentation during forest management practices.
  • Develop guidelines that insure connectivity of high canopy forests after disturbance.
  • Consider adjacent land use to reduce forest fragmentation effects on state forest lands.
  • Zone State Forest lands to retain large patches of intact forest with minimal disturbance (see old-growth map).

 

Guidelines

Addressing Patch Management on state forest lands

I. General Patch Management Approach

There is a broad consensus among scientists that managed forest landscapes are more fragmented and typically contain fewer large patches than are landscapes where landscape patterns are determined primarily by natural disturbance and physical factors. The Bureau of Forestry has zoned the State Forests and has determined that approximately 53% of the State Forests will be managed for a sustained yield of timber products. The management of this area will affect future patch size within the forest. Conversely, the Bureau has zoned approximately ½ of the forest that will receive little or no vegetative management.

Although it is possible to design detailed spatially explicit patch management strategies for individual landscapes, the time and effort necessary to develop such strategies are enormous and the benefits are still questionable at this time. The bureau will continue to examine this strategy as landscape models become more refined and available. In the interim, some elementary guidelines should be used in planning timber harvests and other manipulation of vegetation on State Forest lands.

  • Maintain existing large patches, especially those that minimize the ratio of edge to forest interior and especially conifer-dominated patches (see old-growth map).
  • Create opportunities for large patches in the future by grouping harvest activities.
    • Consider relaxing the rotation range constraints for harvesting adjacent stands to maintain or create new large patches (i.e., harvesting at younger or older ages than normal).
    • Consider increasing the size of shelterwood treatments and overstory removals, while retaining adequate residuals. This consideration must be based on future patch size.
  • The bureau has identified potential areas within ecoregions to maintain and manage for large patches (see bioreserve and/or old growth strategy). Review areas.
  • Large patch size considerations should be considered primarily on large blocks of state forest land.

 

Monitoring

Indicators:

  • Extent of area by forest community type relative to total forest area.
  • Extent of area by forest community type and by size/age class or successional stage.
  • Extent of area by forest community type in protected area categories.
  • Extent of areas by forest community type in protected areas defined by size/age class or successional stage.

Back to Top

Critical Research Needs

  • Aquatic community classification system.
  • Ecological inventories and monitoring of natural and wild areas.
  • Characteristics of existing and potential old-growth systems.
  • Potential silvicultural techniques to accelerate development of potential old-growth systems.
  • Size and effectiveness of corridors.
  • Effects of forest fragmentation on a host of species and resources.