DCNR State Forest Resource Management Plan

State Forest Resource Management Plan
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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
Bureau of Forestry

State Forest Resource Management Plan

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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.

Ecosystem Management

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."

Planning Process

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:

  • Resource inventories and computerized information systems were conducted and/or updated as part of the bureau's continuous inventory process.
  • In 1998, 27 public meetings were conducted to help determine the public's and agencies' desires about how state forest lands should be used and managed.
  • A draft plan containing management policies, goals, objectives, and monitoring indicators was developed considering the public's needs and desires.
  • In 2000, the draft plan was released for comment, and 15 public meetings were conducted to help determine the public's and agencies' acceptance of the draft.
  • The draft plan was revised, considering comments received during the 2000 comment period. Revisions included:
    • Refinement of management policies, goals, and objectives;
    • Development, revision, and balancing of the interactions of operating guidelines based on goals and objectives, inventories, public and agency input, current scientific and technical knowledge, legislative mandates, administrative constraints (budget, personnel, etc.), and anticipated future demands.
  • The revised plan was posted on the Internet on May 28, 2003. Beginning in June, the bureau will conduct 28 public meetings to determine the publics' and agencies' acceptance of the revised plan. Comments will be accepted until September 30, 2003, at which time revisions will be made if needed.
  • The plan is being implemented immediately, although some new, revised, and expanded programs will require a transition period for complete implementation to occur.
  • The planning process will continue, with formal opportunities for public input in 2005 (public input is welcomed and encouraged continually).

Plan Organization

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:

Communications Fauna Resources
Ecological Considerations Flora Resources
Forest Health Components Recreation
Geology/Minerals Silviculture/Timber Management
Soil Resources Non-timber Forest Products
Water Resources Infrastructure

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.

Highlights

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:

  • The commitment to ecosystem management, based on ecological units, such as ecoregions, landscapes, and a newly developed plant community classification system.
  • A revised and expanded forest inventory to include additional ecological parameters, an annualized five-year inventory cycle, and permanent crews to conduct the inventory.
  • New technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Web-based management and reporting systems, and computer-based modeling have been employed to aid in data and information management, resource planning, and management decisions.
  • Through a partnership with Penn State University, a new timber harvest planning system was developed, which uses a sophisticated linear programming computer model to allow for improved and more accurate allocation of resources. The resulting plan emphasizes forest regeneration, while maintaining current timber production levels.
  • The establishment of the regeneration fund, which designates a portion of the receipts from state timber sales to be used to implement management practices to address the over-browsing by deer in order to obtain successful forest regeneration.
  • Proposals for new and expanded Wild and Natural Areas totaling approximately 21,000 acres; a proposed Bioreserve System; and identification of potential Old Growth Areas totaling approximately 27 percent of the forest.
  • A strengthened oil and gas lease and guidelines.
  • Several new sections of the plan, including Communications, Ecological Considerations, Soil Resources, Non-timber Forest Products, and Infrastructure.

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
State Forest Resource Management Plan
P.O. Box 8552
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8552.