March 15, 2012 —
PENNSYLVANIA — An initiative to share information and management suggestions with the hundreds of thousands of private forest land owners has been launched by Penn State: the Center for Private Forests. Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvania is covered by forests, with more than 70% of those woodlands privately owned. The overall mission is the retention, stewardship and management of private forests, according to center director James Finley, professor of Forest Resources. Focus will be research, education and outreach. Audiences, in addition to landowners, will include students, the forest-products industry, loggers, conservation districts, agencies, land trusts and the public.
Faculty and staff involved in the center will cut across several Penn State departments and will include agricultural and natural-resource economists, forest scientists, rural sociologists, environmental scientists, biologists and others.
Individuals own forests for privacy, wildlife, recreation, heritage and income-production values. “But we all benefit from the critical ecological services, such as clean air and water and wildlife habitat,” said Finley. “The flow of goods from private forests is an important economic driver, providing nearly 100,000 jobs and adding an estimated $14 billion to the state’s gross product.” Private forests are also a critical source of recreation and tourism.
Finley cited critical challenges that the center will help address: forest fragmentation, estate planning, sustainable forest management and regeneration, cross-boundary cooperation, taxation, ecosystem services and community support for retaining working forest landscapes.