Table of Contents
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
When completed, the landform map will comprise:
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.
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)
The Bureau of Forestry will use ecological units in inventory, planning, conservation and management efforts.
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.
The maintenance and restoration of ecoregional biological diversity will be a key consideration in resource management efforts on state forest lands.
Goal 1: To conserve or enhance ecoregional biological diversity through the management of state forest lands.
Management of Natural Genetic Diversity on Pennsylvania State Forest Lands
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
Natural Areas Map (Adobe PDF - 400 Kb)
Wild Areas Map (Adobe PDF - 405 Kb)
The bureau will protect selected areas of special scientific, scenic or ecological significance through the establishment of natural and wild 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:
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:
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:
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
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.
Old growth systems will be protected and promoted on state forest lands.
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.
Forest fragmentation, connectivity and patch distribution will be considered in management decisions affecting state forest resources.
Goal 1: To reduce and limit forest fragmentation and promote connectivity of high canopy forests by maintaining fluid corridors throughout the state forests.
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.