Independent Review Hails Management of PA’s State Forest System

HARRISBURG – State Forester Daniel Devlin applauded an independent environmental review team’s decision to again certify state forestlands as well managed, noting the decision affirms the state’s efforts to conserve these resources and ensure their long-term health and sustainability.

“We take pride in managing our state forest system for many values and uses, while maintaining its long-term health and viability,” said Devlin. “Today, there are many threats and challenges in forest management, including invasive plants, destructive exotic insects, insufficient regeneration, illegal motorized trails, and fragmentation.

“The certification process is a strong affirmation that we are doing everything we can to meet these challenges through management plans and practices. More importantly, it helps us identify areas we can improve to ensure our forests are sustainable.”

SmartWood, a New York City-based operation accredited to offer independent, third-party certification of sustainable forest-management practices, conducted the review during the summer of 2008.

The study praised the Bureau of Forestry for its strong conservation ethic, ongoing public involvement in management policies, and efforts to resolve conflicts among often-diverse user groups.

Specifically, SmartWood applauded the Bureau of Forestry for its:

· Extensive formal and informal consultative processes;

· High awareness of stakeholder interests, and a genuine interest in trying to balance multiple values;

· Recreational User-Conflict Resolution principles;

· Strong contributions to local economic development, civic activities and public education;

· A strong conservation ethic that has led to developing a system of natural areas, state parks, wild areas, limited resource zones, non-management buffer zones, and wild plant sanctuaries that encompass more than half of the state forest system (approximately 1 million acres). Many areas were acquired specifically because of unique features, habitats or species they harbor.

The assessment was designed to evaluate the ecological, economic and social performance of the Bureau of Forestry according to forest management guidelines established by the Forest Stewardship Council. The council was formed in 1993 by environmental, social and forest-products industry representatives to establish guidelines for sustainable forest-management practices.

A SmartWood project team of foresters and forest ecologists toured state forest districts, meeting with DCNR officials and stakeholders. They scored woodlands on timber-resource sustainability, forest-ecosystem maintenance, financial and socioeconomic considerations and other categories.

SmartWood is recognized as the world’s leading Forest Stewardship Council forest management certifier. The 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.

“Just as recycled products have become common in the marketplace, many environmentally conscious timber consumers look for ‘green’ wood grown in certified forests,” Devlin said. “That makes this certification especially good news when you consider that our quality hardwoods help support the state’s $5 billion forest products industry that employs almost 100,000 people.”

The evaluation team also suggested some areas of improvement, including the use of the Deer Management Assistance Program and how the state monitors the ecological effects of using non-native species to manage forests.

“We will take a close look at all of the improvement areas noted by the certification team formulate ways to address them through our management plans, guidelines and procedures,” said Devlin.

A full report on SmartWood’s state forest evaluation can be found online. The State Forest Resource Management Plan can be found here (select State Forests).

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