Governor Tom Wolf applauded the work of a panel of forestry experts from private, public, and academic sectors that has been meeting regularly since January to analyze current limitations to forest conservation and job growth, and to develop an action plan to address both objectives.
“Prioritizing conservation and job growth related to this field is vital to creating a sustainable, dynamic industry in this state where almost 60 percent is forested,” Governor Wolf told the group gathered at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg. “One of Pennsylvania’s greatest strengths is our natural resources, and this group’s strength is the expertise and commitment you folks have demonstrated the past nine months.”
The Green Ribbon Task Force was called together following extended discussion between Gov. Wolf and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn on how Pennsylvania’s nearly 17 million acres of forestland could best play an active role in his call for statewide job creation.
The governor commended the panel for looking at ways to spur job growth while improving and conserving the state’s forest base.
Addressed specifically were:
· A new conservation easement program for working forests that would keep forests as forest but provide increased opportunities for sustainable harvest of wood products;
· Legislation to give loggers, on whose shoulders the entire forest products industry rests, more incentives and advantages to get into the logging business and to be able to make a good living, including better worker’s compensation options, more training, and more opportunities for worker recruitment;
· Sustainable support for the Hardwoods Development Council to conduct research, marketing, training, and many other opportunities through a public-private partnership between the industry and state government;
· Support and promotion of more maker’s spaces across Pennsylvania cities, where small manufacturing, wood crafters, artisans and others can share resources, networks and bring jobs back to forested Pennsylvania;
· Raising the profile of forest-based jobs through forest tours, job mentoring, early recruitment, apprenticeships and similar workforce efforts.
“It’s great to see such interagency cooperation among three involved agencies -- DCNR, Ag, and DCED, “ Gov. Wolf said, “and to hear of positive and constructive interactions between different stakeholder interests -- industry, conservation and academia -- as well as the strong role state government can play in bringing it all together.
“To find consensus among the dozens of recommendations included here is exciting, and a great example of cross-cutting cooperation that we could use more of in Harrisburg, and statewide.”
”The panel’s report represents eight months of hard work by the 35 task force members and many agency staff and experts,” Dunn said. “It represents dozens of hours in all-day meetings, work group calls, field trips to see first-hand our forest products industry, lumber yards, manufacturing plants, our forests, and more. This collaborative effort among agencies and different stakeholder groups has taught us about each other’s work, problems, lives, and passions.
“It has also produced better and more workable recommendations. We have learned from each other, and are making plans to keep working together to address the many issues we’ve raised and to put our recommendations into action.”
Meeting at the governor’s invitation at his Harrisburg residence, at least 30 participants had been selected by DCNR and the state departments of Agriculture and Community and Economic Development. Today they were addressed by Gov. Wolf, Dunn and other key speakers, including: Daniel Devlin, state forester and director of DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry; Russell Redding, Secretary of Agriculture; Dr. Jim Finley, director of the Center for Private Forests and Pennsylvania Extension Forester; Paul Lyskava, executive director, Pennsylvania Forest Products Association; and Wayne Bender, acting executive director, Hardwoods Development Council.
Individual workgroups had been formed, introduced and assigned study and discussion areas that included: conservation; workforce development and jobs; economic development and products. Each workgroup’s responsibilities include: Address the current state of the forest and forest products industry; define the scope of the workgroup; identify issues to address; develop recommendations to bring to the larger group; and work with other workgroups to integrate and forge recommendations into a final set.
Since its formation Jan. 7, the task force has held monthly meetings, and individual work groups also met to discuss issues in greater detail and formulate recommended action items. Workgroup chairs then reported out on their groups’ progress to the larger task force, in order to stimulate broader discussion.
MEDIA CONTACT: Terry Brady, 717-772-9101