Friday, August 11, 2017

Habitat Hero: John Hoover

Landowner, John Hoover

John Hoover, a Centre County Pennsylvania forest landowner, in fact, John was Tree Farmer of the Year for Pennsylvania in 2011, is featured as a “Habitat Hero” by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Habitat Heroes are America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who demonstrate how wildlife and working lands can prosper together. They are caring for wildlife while producing food and fiber the nation needs to strengthen rural communities.

John’s Habitat Hero story is by the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), one of NRCS’ conservation partners working to help private landowners adopt conservation measures that benefit forestry and agricultural operations while helping birds and other wildlife species. John is working with the NRCS, AMJV and other partners including the American Bird Conservancy to manage for both golden-winged warbler and cerulean warbler habitat through Working Lands for Wildlife and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

John says walking through his Pennsylvania forest is like walking through rooms of a house. "Each room is different and has its own use," he says, referring to the different age classes of tree stands on his property. Some are old. Some are young. Over the years, John has learned a diverse forest can yield better timber while benefiting wildlife.

Click here to view an interactive version of the feature presentation.

Story by Matt Cimitile, Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture

View from Hoover's property
Since 1866 – a year after the end of the Civil War – John Hoover’s family has owned property in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Over the decades, the largely forested property became subdivided and boundary lines and titles blurred with most of the land going into disuse. Nearly 40 years ago, when John inherited a portion of the original property, he figured the best way to unclutter boundary lines and make better use of the land was to buy as much of the surrounding forest and original deed as possible.

“I’m a mechanical engineer and mostly dealt in new product design and development,” said Hoover. “And this land issue was a challenge, a unique problem that I wanted to solve. It took me more than a dozen years but I ended up bringing together 600 acres under single ownership.”

Hoover currently lives in Connecticut but plans to retire soon and relocate to a home next to his forest.

The land is situated in a corridor that connects the 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park with 4,000 acres of State Game Lands. Its location makes it a potentially valuable commodity as a linkage for wildlife and natural resources, a vital connector between two protected areas.

“Something that occurred to me after I acquired all this land, is that I didn’t really have a goal in mind for the property itself,” said Hoover. “So, I talked with a forester, and he told me about the benefits of harvesting trees for the health of the forest and as a way to enhance game species such as deer, turkey and grouse.”

The first harvest, which cut and thinned out aspen trees, saw a dramatic increase in game species on the land. Six more harvests followed. Each targeted at a specific section of the property.

Each successful harvest helped his bottom line by selling timber while diversifying both his forest and the species of wildlife that visited it.

“As I walk through the land, I look at it as entering different rooms of a house. Each room is different and has its own use," Hoover said.

"The property is subdivided like that, with individual smaller and uneven aged tracts created by forest harvests conducted at different times. Some with really intense management, and others where I have not done anything."

Getting Help
Hoover has reached out for help along the way, including the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), American Bird Conservancy, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever and others.

Through these groups, Hoover was able to get technical and financial assistance to help plan and implement forest management practices. With this help, he has not only improved his bottom line, but he has been able to create top-notch wildlife habitat.

Right now, Hoover is participating in two conservation efforts.

golden-winged warbler
The first is Working Lands for Wildlife, an NRCS-led effort to help private landowners like Hoover restore declining habitats to help at-risk species. In the Appalachians, NRCS is helping landowners manage for young forests to benefit the golden-winged warbler and other species.

Golden-winged warblers in the last 45 years have suffered one of the steepest population declines of any songbird. Since the 1960s, the young forests that the bird uses for nesting has decreased by 43 percent in the Appalachians.

Working with foresters and biologists, Hoover developed a management plan and then went about creating young forest habitat on his property to provide ideal foraging space, shelter, and nesting sites for a host of wildlife that depend on this type of ecosystem.

cerulean warbler
Meanwhile, Hoover is also participating in the Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement Project, which is led by AMJV and funded through NRCS' Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The regional project seeks to implement active forest management on private lands to improve 12,500 acres of forest habitat and 1,000 acres of reclaimed mine lands for the cerulean warbler, offsite link image     which like the golden-winged warbler, has suffered from population declines.

Cerulean warblers prefer older forests with canopy openings, which like young forests, are not common in Appalachia. Hoover is currently thinning out dense mature forest areas that contain tall deciduous trees to create open canopies and gaps to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, promoting the growth of saplings, shrubs, and other vegetation in the forest understory.

Multiple Benefits
In addition to helping the golden-winged warbler and cerulean warbler, managing for healthier forests also leaves the best trees on the tract: tall, straight, and defect free. They will be the seed source for the next trees that make up the future forest, Hoover said.

“I am blessed and lucky to have a good chunk of land that allows me to do different activities on different sections,” said Hoover. “I’m able to focus on hardwood development in one area that doesn’t benefit wildlife as much but benefits trees, and in other areas I can focus management that is best for bird and other wildlife habitat.”

“The mix of all this activity creates various forest stages on the property that works out very well for wildlife and the overall health of the land.”

Want to Learn More?
To learn more about assistance opportunities, landowners should contact their local USDA service center.

You can meet some of the other producers managing for top-notch wildlife habitat on their working lands by visiting the NRCS Habitat Hero web page.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Which Trees to Cut.....And Why

I had the below article sent to me earlier this month.  I thought it would make a great follow-up to some earlier posts on harvesting I made that received a lot of interest.

The first article I posted on April 27, 2016 entitled "Why the Forestry Profession Should Harshly Criticize High Grading" by Dan Pubanz.  Dan is a consulting forester out of Wisconsin.  His article first appeared in the winter issue of the National Woodlands magazine.

The second article, posted June 21, 2016, was a great follow-up written by Dr. Jim Finley, Penn State, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Jim's article was called "Describing Sustainable Timber Harvesting: What Do Words Mean?"  In the article Jim describes sustainable timber harvests as focusing on the residual trees you leave and/or the regeneration you establish.

The third article, posted November 2016, was a news story posted by the Pittsburgh Tribune about a logging job that was taking place in the Lower Burrell.  The article includes an interview with Tom McQuaide, a forestry consultant in Pennsylvania, where Tom compares a forest to a garden. He states, "you pick the mature fruit."

Now on to the most recent article, this one is a radio interview produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.  The person being interviewed is Kelly Riddle, a procurement forester with Allegheny Wood Products.  Give it a listen (6 minutes) or read the text I provided below.  Let me know what you think?  Was Kelly on track with his answers?

By Jean Snedegar • Jun 28, 2017

In the next part of our occasional series on the timber and forest products industry, we find out how timber cruisers -- or procurement foresters -- help landowners decide when to harvest trees in a timber stand, which trees to take and which ones to leave behind. 

Photo: Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Independent producer Jean Snedegar joined Kelly Riddle, of Allegheny Wood Products, in early June at a privately owned forest near Kingwood, in Preston County.

“One of the interesting things about being a forester is that not every stand or site is the same,” he said. “You know, you walk to the other side of the hollow or the other side of the ridge, the site conditions change, the species change, the understory changes, and so it’s kind of a new canvas any place that you walk.”

Riddle said deciding on which trees to take depends on several factors. “One that we look at is, first of all if we’re dealing with a private landowner, what their goals and objectives are. Second, we look at merchantability of the trees. What I mean by that – is it useable for a commercial process – whether it be for saw timber, or pulp wood or some other product? And then we look at the overall health of the stand and the trees,” he said, looking around a stand of trees he’d marked.

“This stand is composed primarily of yellow popular and soft maple, with some scattered oaks in here. I look at the size of the trees as an indication of whether they’ve reached their biological maturity or financial maturity,” Riddle said.

“Generally, once a tree reaches about 18 inches in diameter – and this depends on the site it’s growing on and other factors – it’s probably reached its financial maturity – meaning, if you harvested that tree, gained the revenue from that tree, reinvested in something else, you could do better from a financial standpoint than if you left that tree to grow. Biologically, the tree may have 50 more years that it could live and produce wood and other values. “The other thing we’re trying to do is create optimum growing space for the residual trees that you have.”

Age and Condition
Riddle walked up to tree in the stand. “This tree happens to be a yellow poplar – 24 inches in diameter. And given the age and condition of the stand I marked this tree because it’s mature, it’s ready to be harvested. And there are other trees adjacent to it – this hard maple for instance – that is one of the trees that I want to be the next stand,” he said. “So, by taking this yellow poplar out, it creates product for our sawmill and it also creates space for that maple to grow and be part of the next stand.”

When to Revisit a Timber Stand
Riddle said he typically goes back to any given stand about every five years to re-evaluate the growth and response since the last thinning.

“We typically look at a 12-15 year cycle of re-entry to harvest. In these stands that are even-aged – they were all re-generated about the same time – you can do that three or four times depending on the stands, the site and the characteristics of how good a site it is,” he said. “And then, towards the end of that 80 – 100 year period, you have to look at regeneration, maybe in the form of a ‘shelter wood’ type harvest, and get a more uneven aged management distribution.”

Riddle said a shelter wood-type harvest is a little more intensive harvest where you have fewer trees per acre that are remaining.

“It allows full sunlight to reach the forest floor, which most of our species here in Appalachia need in order to regenerate. All of our poplar, cherry, all of our oaks are shade-intolerant and they will not regenerate without that full sunlight, so it’s a requirement to initiate the next stand,” he said.

Signature Marking
Walking through the forest, Riddle pointed out the various types of marks he has put on the trees. These marks tell the loggers which trees to cut – and whether they should go to the sawmill nearby or the pulp mill in Luke, Maryland.

“Foresters have their own signature way of marking. If I have a tree that’s primarily a saw timber tree, I’ll just put a dot, whereas a lateral slash may mean that there’s some imperfection in that tree, or that it’s a pulpwood, or a cull type tree. A full cull tree would be an ‘X’,” he said.

‘Bad Management’
Riddle said there are some misconceptions about what “bad” management is. “Sometimes you have something that doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing and people might consider that to be bad management,” he said. “As foresters, we know that that’s not necessarily the case. There are some fairly intensive harvests where most of the material is removed that can be very good management, though it’s not aesthetically pleasing.”

Riddle said as a forester now for more than 30 years, the worst thing we can do is high-grade timber stands. 

“That was a harvest philosophy where all you took was the best and left only the low-grade, non-commercial species – something like these soft maples that are damaged or have issues already. And all you were taking was the ‘cream’, so to speak,” he said. “If you do that more than one thinning cycle, then you’ve left a stand that has trees – it might look fine – but from a commercial standpoint, it has no value to the landowner.”

Riddle said we have a great resource in West Virginia as a whole. “We say that we’re trying to provide a resource for today and manage it for future generations,” he said.

This series is made possible with support from the Myles Family Foundation.
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Editor's Note: This story is part of an occasional series from independent producer Jean Snedegar about the timber and forest products industry here in the Mountain State -- from seedlings to final products.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Learn to Protect Water Quality at Ag Progress Days

Pennsylvania has 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, which flow through farms and backyards, cities and towns, forests and fields. This means that no matter where Pennsylvanians live, virtually all citizens have a role to play in protecting the state's critical water resources.

Visitors to the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building and Theater at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, Aug. 15-17, can learn how they can contribute to keeping water clean, safe and abundant. Through educational displays and presentations, Penn State Extension educators and faculty specialists will cover a variety of water-related topics of interest to a broad spectrum of audiences.

Water quality is a prominent issue in Pennsylvania, especially for agriculture, according to Matt Royer, director of Penn State's Agriculture and Environment Center. "Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have done much to improve water quality by implementing conservation practices on their farms, much of it with their own dollars," he said. "But more needs to be done. Penn State is helping to lead a coalition of agriculture and environmental leaders to advance innovative, farmer-led solutions to our water quality challenges."

But it's not just farmers who have a role, Royer noted. "Everyone, whether they farm 200 acres or have a small backyard lot, can take management steps to protect our water quality," he said. "We'll be highlighting those steps in the College Exhibits Building during Ag Progress Days, with experts on hand to talk about what farmers, homeowners, forest landowners, private well owners and city dwellers can do to ensure clean water in Pennsylvania."

The building will feature a flowing stream landscape, with "tributaries" to four program displays aimed at helping visitors identify specific things they can do to help protect Pennsylvania's water resources. Exhibits will cover the following topics:

 -- Drinking Water Protection: If you're one of the 3 million Pennsylvanians who gets your water from a private well, what should you do, and not do, around your well head to help ensure that your drinking water stays safe for your family? Well owners can learn about Penn State's Ag Analytical Lab and how to test and treat private wells that provide water for households, livestock and other uses.

-- Stormwater and Green Infrastructure: How can you better manage stormwater at your home to reduce flooding, erosion and other water-quality problems on your property and downstream? Learn about the "Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater" and online mapping tools you can use to make a plan for your home. This exhibit also will feature Penn State's Master Watershed Stewards program, which enlists volunteers to help educate communities across Pennsylvania.

-- Agricultural Water: What are the best practices for farmers to protect local water while raising livestock and field crops? This display will spotlight streambank fencing, proper manure management and other conservation practices. Also, visitors can explore the results of a recent Penn State survey on best practices that Pennsylvania farmers already are implementing to protect local water resources.

-- Forest Buffers: Why are streamside forests so important, and what resources are available to help get them planted? Whether you have a stream running through your farm or your suburban backyard, streamside buffers — also known as riparian buffers — are one of the most important practices to protect Pennsylvania's water. Visitors can learn about the many programs available to help with installing a forest buffer on their property.

Also, organizers encourage youth and families to visit the College Exhibits Building at 1 p.m. each day, when 4-H State Council members will lead kids in the new, award-winning "Rain to Drain — Slow the Flow" 4-H activity. Young people will get hands-on experience learning how water moves on Earth and how we can reduce flooding, maintain groundwater supplies and prevent water pollution.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 15; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website.

By Chuck Gill

Monday, July 17, 2017

First wild deer found with chronic wasting disease in Clearfield County, PA

Photo by Dave Jackson

The dreaded chronic wasting disease has shown up for the first time in wild deer in Clearfield County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s traditional hunting territory and adjacent to the state’s famous elk herd.

At a press conference held by the Pennsylvania Game Commission Thursday, officials said the very future existence of whiteailed deer and elk in Pennsylvania is at stake. "We've got a big problem. The threat is real. The situation is potentially dire," said Wayne Laroche, the Game Commission's wildlife-management director.

A mature buck in Bell Township, Clearfield County, was shot by a Game Commission officer on June 7 on State Game Lands 87 after it showed signs of being diseased, the agency said. The deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease, a disease that is always fatal to infected deer and other members of the cervid family, including elk. It's highly likely that means other wild deer are infected, Laroche said.

CWD had been found in captive deer at two different locations in the region in Jefferson County in 2014, but this is the first case of an infected wild deer. Besides being bad news for hunters in the big woods counties of the state, the Game Commission also is worried now that the disease has spread closer to the state’s elk herd. The infected deer is only 10 miles from the nearest elk herd.

Deer-hunting in Pennsylvania is a $1.6 billion industry. And tourism surrounding viewing elk has become a linchpin in local economies in northwestern Pennsylvania. More than 100 elk are tested annually for CWD and so far none has been found with the disease. But the history of CWD in other states has been to continue to spread despite efforts to stop its progression by killing local infected populations.

That's because saliva and feces and urine that spread the disease is easily picked up by deer because they are social animals. And the disease can remain on the ground for up to 15 years, Laroche said. "Everywhere it has always increased. There are no examples of it burning itself out." At best, wildlife managers can keep the disease controlled, he said.

The Commission reacted to the bad news by announcing a program to kill deer in the immediate vicinity with sharpshooters and to issue 2,800 deer permits for hunters to kill deer in the 350-square-mile Disease Management Area 3 this fall. "It's important our response is as effective and efficient as possible to attempt to curtail this disease before it becomes well-established in an area where it not only is a threat to our deer, but also our elk," said Laroche.

The Game Commission said 2,800 extra Deer Management Assistance Program permits for hunters to kill antlerless deer in the upcoming seasons will be made available, likely beginning today. The agency asked for hunters to let them know where the deer are killed so the deer can be tested for CWD.

Sharpshooters likely will be used after the deer seasons end. CWD has been an increasing threat to whitetail deer in Pennsylvania and has also been found in 51 free-ranging deer so far in southcentral Pennsylvania since 2012. Some 25 wild deer were found in 2016.

Pennsylvania hunters reacted to the news with alarm and some with criticism of Game Commission tactics to fight the spreading disease. "As I have been saying for awhile now, CWD has long been established throughout Pennsylvania. There will be no containment plan that works. All of the current solutions have proven to not do much, yet the PGC continues to forge ahead with failing plans," said one Pittsburgh member of the outdoor forum on the Internet.

Another hunter from Elk County countered with, "There is little doubt it is going to eventually spread across most and perhaps even eventually all of the state but the people who have studied the subject know it can be slowed greatly by following the action plan in place by the Game Commission." Another blamed the mess on captive deer farms that raise private deer herds to sell to fenced-in private hunting preserves.

"The only reason it is in this state and spreading is from deer farms and transporting those deer. Every captive deer should have been killed years ago and anyone moving one over the border should be locked up and fined to the max."

There is no vaccine to prevent deer or elk from contracting CWD, which is spread by body fluids. To date, there is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans. However, the Game Commission advises hunters not to eat meat from animals known to be infected with the disease.

For more on CWD go to:


From Lancaster Online
Ad Crable, 7-13-17