HARRISBURG – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti has released results of an independent review team’s annual study of state forestlands, noting its findings continue to affirm Bureau of Forestry efforts to conserve these resources through sound management.
“Once again our state forests were deemed ‘well-managed’ in an official certification reflecting the pride we take in managing our system for many values and uses, while maintaining its long-term health and viability,” Ferretti said. “Auditors were very pleased with our management and the dedication of our staff, and I extend thanks to districts involved in this year’s audit for another job well done.”
For the 16th consecutive year, since 1998 when a team of scientists first began reviewing management of the 2.2 million acres of state forestlands, researchers applauded Pennsylvania’s commitment to its forests, and exemplary practices and innovation in managing forest resources.
“Forest management faces many threats and challenges, including fragmentation and disturbance, invasive plants, destructive exotic insects and insufficient regeneration,” noted Ferretti. “The certification process shows we are doing everything we can to improve our management plans and practices. More importantly, it helps us identify areas we can improve to ensure our forests are well managed and in line with public expectations.”
The review was conducted in late August 2013 by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an Emeryville, Calif.-based certification body accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council to conduct forest management and resource evaluations.
A project team consisting of three foresters specializing in wildlife biology, ecology, forestry management and socio-economic issues toured Moshannon, Tiadaghton, Elk and Cornplanter state forest districts. The SCS team met with DCNR officials and stakeholders, scoring woodlands on timber-resource sustainability, forest-ecosystem maintenance, financial and socioeconomic considerations and other categories.
Auditors sought public input on topics that included effects of energy extraction; deer impact in the forests; woodland regeneration; and bureau public information and education efforts. Study focused on public involvement; timber harvests; chemical use; landscape considerations in timber sales; soil, wildlife and other ecological safeguards; and use of non-native species.
Specifically, SCS applauded the Bureau of Forestry for:
- Developing guidelines and monitoring systems to help assess, mitigate and minimize impacts of energy-related activities;
- Recognizing “diverse impacts of gas development, including both positive and negative potential impacts,” and attempting to address them in “guidelines, management and monitoring systems”;
- Communications and information programs that are “well developed and contribute to increasing public knowledge and understanding of forestry and the services provided by DCNR.”
While no non-conformances were found in the field, one Minor Corrective Action Request called for attempts to more clearly define and implement accessible public participation in short-term planning processes for timber sales. The auditors also called for uniformity within districts on when a timber sale should be shut down because of forest floor rutting.
“In each of the four districts studied and at many sites visited, auditors also looked at the overall condition of our forests, roads, trails and infrastructure,” said Ferretti. “Auditors often commented that it is easy to see we’ve been at this for quite some time. Every bureau employee should feel proud of the work they have done to help us maintain that high standard.”
The Forest Stewardship Council was formed in 1993 by environmental, social and forest-products industry representatives to establish guidelines for sustainable forest-management practices.
Certification assures consumers that wood products from the state’s public forests come from a sustainable, well-managed system, which helps Pennsylvania to compete in the growing niche consumer market for “green” label wood products.
Copies of the SCS 2013 state forest evaluation and the State Forest Resource Management Plan can be found online.