Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
State Forest Resource Management Plan
The state forest system of Pennsylvania, approximately 2.1 million acres of forestland in 48 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, comprises 12 percent of the forested area in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania's state forest represents one of the largest expanses of public forestland in the eastern United States, making it a truly priceless public asset. The state forest provides an abundance of high quality forest products, which help to support the state's $5 billion forest products industry that employs almost 100,000 people. When viewed from another perspective, the state forest represents a two million acre water treatment plant and air purification system. Additionally, these forests provide recreational opportunities and mineral resources, as well as an aesthetic setting that is vital for Pennsylvania's tourism industry. And, when taken as a whole, the state forest is the largest publicly owned habitat for plants and animals in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our state forest system is a combination of these resources, uses, and values, as well as a functioning biological system with intrinsic values to be held in public trust for future generations.
The purpose of this executive summary is to provide a synopsis of the State Forest Resource Management Plan, which is the Bureau of Forestry's comprehensive document for guiding the management of the state forests.
The management of Pennsylvania's state forests has been an evolving process, beginning with the first purchase of land in 1898. The initial management plans, as written in 1955, focused primarily on timber management and watershed protection. Major revisions in the plans written in 1970 and 1985 incorporated new knowledge and reflected changing management philosophies and cultural values. The current planning effort, a fourth generation of plans, has evolved into an ecosystem management-based approach. In ecosystem management, the overarching goal of forest sustainability in turn assures the array of resources, uses, and values for current and future generations. Ecosystem management can be defined as an ecological approach to resource management, where all aspects of an ecosystem are considered important, and decisions are made based on the best understanding of ecological interactions and processes necessary to sustain the ecosystem's composition, structure, and function over the long term.
Strategic Plan and Forest Certification
With increasing pressures on the state forest, the Bureau of Forestry initiated a strategic planning effort to address the issue of long-term sustainability. In 1995, this effort resulted in the bureau's strategic plan, "Penn's Woods - Sustaining Our Forests." As part of the strategic planning effort, the bureau adopted a mission statement, which articulates the bureau's commitment to manage the state forest using the principles of ecosystem management. Several years later, the management of the state forest underwent an independent third-party review conducted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), based on the forest management principles established by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In 1998, this review resulted in an extensive report and the "certification" that the state forest was "well managed."
The planning process for updating the State Forest Resource Management Plan began shortly after the Strategic Plan was adopted, and simultaneously with the initiation of the certification process. Collectively, past management plans, the Strategic Plan, and the findings and recommendations from the certification process provided the philosophical foundation for future management of the state forests.
Whereas previous management plans were revised at 15-year intervals, this plan and future plans will be revised and updated every five years. This process will allow for increased opportunities for public comment and input, and allow the bureau to more effectively anticipate and respond to changing issues, understandings, technologies, and forest conditions. Execution of the current planning process consisted of the following basic steps:
The State Forest Resource Management Plan is organized into 12 core sections, plus an Executive Summary and an Overview, to address the resources, uses, and values of the state forests:
Each of the 12 core sections contains an introduction, history, inventory, policy statement, goals, objectives, guidelines or actions, monitoring indicators of sustainability, and critical research needs. This information provides a basic understanding of the directions the Bureau of Forestry intends to follow concerning the management of the state forests. In addition, operating manuals and other documents are referenced and attached via links on the Internet. Together, with its reference materials, the plan provides a comprehensive source of information and guidance on the management issues of the state forest for the Bureau of Forestry and the public.
Public and internal input gathered from a variety of sources, including 42 public meetings, written comments, and several advisory committees, provided the bureau with many recommendations and viewpoints to consider in the planning process. By far the largest number of comments centered on recreation and user access to state forest lands. Other issues included increased public contact and enforcement, wild and natural area management, and silviculture and timber management. Additionally, there were significant comments relating to each section of the plan. These comments were considered, and Bureau of Forestry policies, goals, and objectives were modified to the extent possible. The Bureau of Forestry recognizes that not all potential forest uses and values can be compatibly met on all areas of the state forest, but is committed to accommodating the public's needs and desires and minimizing conflict among its constituents whenever possible.
In addition to shortening the planning cycle from 15 to five years, this revised plan includes a number of other significant changes, some of which include:
A series of public meetings will be held throughout the state. Locations, dates, and times are posted on the Public Meeting Schedule. Written comments will be accepted until September 30, 2003 and should be addressed to:
DCNR - Bureau of Forestry