Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learn to Identify Oriental Bittersweet

Oriental bittersweet can cause severe tree damage.  It is
easily identified in the fall by its yellow foliage.
Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is an invasive exotic vine that is often used in holiday decorations and wreaths this time of year.  It also causes severe damage to our woodlands as it climbs trees and shrubs strangling and shading them out.  It can cause severe tree damage.  I have experienced this vine first-hand at the Ag Progress Days woodlot in central PA.  I found one severe infestation of the vine in an old patch clearcut from 15 years ago and now I have been finding the vine everywhere.

Oriental bittersweet is often used
for making wreaths this time of year

It is extremely difficult to control.  I have been trying to rid the woodlot of the vine since I discovered it a few years ago and I just keep finding more.  I have also found that not only does the vine climb trees but it also root sucker and send up sprouts.  Theses new sprouts are extremely difficult to find and control.  I have spent hours searching through areas with a backpack sprayer treating new sprouts.  When spraying I use a mixture of glyphosate and triclopyr mixed 2:1 respectively.  This mix is also good for other invasive plants you may encounter and want to treat at the same time.

It is important that you learn to identify Oriental bittersweet as we also have a native American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens).  The two are often confused and unfortunately, they are know to hybridize.  The University of Minnesota Extension has put together and excellent YouTube Video on how to easily identify the invasive exotic vine and differentiate it from the American vine.  Now is a great time to watch for it and avoid spreading the seeds. Minnesota's new Extension fact sheet will also help you differentiate between native American bittersweet and its noxious invasive cousin.
Oriental bittersweet has yellow seed capsules and the fruits are located
all along the stem in the axils of the leaf
The primary ways to differentiate between the two are as follows:
American Bittersweet
Flowers and fruits are at the ends of the branches
Seed capsules are orange

Oriental Bittersweet
Flowers and fruits are in the axils of the leaves all along the vine
Seed capsules are yellow

Here is the link to the PA DCNR Invasive Plants of Pennsylvania fact sheet on Oriental Bittersweet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Real vs Artificial Christmas Trees

With the holiday season upon us I thought it would be appropriate to provide a post on the real vs. artificial Christmas tree debate.  Of course my person al preference is to support our local economy, our local growers who depend on selling Christmas trees to make a living, and select a real tree.  But, is that really the best choice for the environment?  I have seen many different opinions on the subject expressed.  I recently came across the below article from Dovetails Partners, Inc. and thought I would share it with my readers.  Dovetail Partners is a nonprofit corporation that provides authoritative information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives.

Interestingly enough, if you go to the American Christmas Tree Associations web site they say there is no debate.  They feel that consumers should "feel free to choose either type of tree, or better yet, choose one or more of each!"   They state that "recent Life Cycle Analysis studies concluded that neither tree has a significant negative impact on the environment." Well, for my money I am still going to go with a real tree.....the debate may never be settled!

Real Versus Artificial Christmas Trees - An Environmental Perspective (Dovetail Partners 11/18/2013)
Each year around the holiday season decision making swings into full gear as people begin decorating and buying gifts for loved ones. For those that celebrate Christmas, an important decision regarding trees is often over-looked - should you buy a real or artificial Christmas tree, and how does your decision impact the environment? Cost, convenience, and personal preference are all important considerations, but so too is the environmental impact of each option.

Research has shown that locally-sourced natural trees have less environmental impact than artificial ones. An independent Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study released by the Montreal firm Elliposos (February 2009) determined that real trees have less overall impact in terms of distribution, disposal, and average carbon emissions than their artificial counterparts. The LCA method allows for evaluation of potential environmental impacts of a product (or service) over its entire life cycle and takes raw material processing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, use, reuse, recycling and disposal impacts into consideration.

When it comes to artificial trees, the key to achieving environmental gains lies in the amount of time they're kept and reused. Average households replace an artificial tree about every six years.  Evidence shows that, in general, artificial trees need to be reused for at least 20 years if they are to compare favorably with natural trees.

To read the rest of the story click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Acorns and Bears

Black bears in white oak tree.
With the bear hunting season currently underway in Pennsylvania for the next few days I felt it would be appropriate to share this information with my readers.  The below article was written for Virginia but Pennsylvania is experiencing the same shortage of acorns statewide as well. 

After the bumper crop of acorns Pennsylvania had in 2012 we are experiencing a severe acorn shortage this fall.  Many wildlife species rely upon acorns to fatten up before winter sets in.  In fact, in a news release from the PA Game Commission chief forester Dave Gustafson indicated, "This year has produced a spotty acorn crop statewide.  A late spring frost affected white oaks and chestnut oaks. And a cold wet spring in 2012 affected red oaks, which take two years to produce.  Those conditions have combined to limit acorn availability in many areas.  That's not to say there aren't acorns to be found.  In some cases, though, it can take some work to find them."
Bumper crop of red oak acorns.

Points of interest:
1. During acorn shortages a bears range may double or even quadruple
2. Bears may go into hibernation earlier during shortages
3. In years of mast failures bear cub survival declines
4. A bears lifetime is typically 12-15 years
5. In years of mast failures bears turn to alternative food sources, including human provided sources
6. A bears lifetime can be cut in half if it has access to human-style foods

Acorn shortage may have bears changing patterns
(The News Advance, Lynchburg, VA, November 20, 2013)

Acorns are scarce, and that means black bears may behave differently, Virginia’s forest and game experts said. Most of the oak trees that produce acorns are taking the year off in Virginia and neighboring states, forestry officials have said on their websites.

Bears depend heavily on acorns for food since red and white oak trees that produce those nuts dominate mountain forests. Bears and other wildlife can turn to alternate foods, or mast, such as berries and hickory nuts, which grew abundantly this year. Also, frequently, they turn to bird feeders, trash cans, dumpsters — dog food too, if it’s left where they can sniff it, even in urban areas. Police routinely confirm reports of bears venturing into human habitats, such as a family that included cubs, which roamed Lee’s Trailer Park in Madison Heights in September. Another bear was seen crossing the road onto Lynchburg College’s campus two weeks later. Humans actually harm bears if food or garbage is left where bears can reach them, wildlife experts say. A bear’s lifetime, typically 12 to 15 years, can be cut in half if it has access to human-style foods, according to the National Forest Service. It also is against the law to feed bears in Virginia.

Acorns typically provide about half the forage consumed by bear, deer, and turkey. As a result of the acorn shortage, the roaming range of bears can double or even quadruple, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Also, bears may go into hibernation earlier. Bear cub survival tends to decline in years with mast failures, said Gary Norman, of Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

There’s no single explanation for the lack of acorns this year, said Jerre Creighton, of the Virginia Department of Forestry. Possibilities include a natural cycle in which oak trees may be resting after producing a bumper crop of acorns in 2012, he said. Also, many of the oaks’ flower buds died before they could be pollinated last spring, he said — possibly due to late-spring freezes or high humidity from abundant spring rains. “We experienced both of these over much of Virginia,” Creighton said in a news release.

To read the full release click here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Conserving the Hemlocks of the High Allegheny Plateau

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid on underside of hemlock needles.
The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the US Forest Service on a long term study to identify the most critically important hemlock forests in northwestern PA and western NY.  As most of you are already aware, hemlocks are threatened by an introduced, invasive insect called the hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA).  Hemlocks, the state tree of Pennsylvania, are important for a variety of reasons. They provide important ecosystem services such as clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and host a diversity of fungi and insect communities. 
This new study plans to use existing data to develop a technique to prioritize hemlock forests that are most at-risk and have the highest conservation value.  These results will provide landowners and managers with the tools necessary to identify where to deploy limited dollars and resources.  The tool will help identify priority areas for monitoring and treatment.
Distribution of HWA and range of eastern hemlock.
 At this time, an interactive, web-based GIS tool has been developed.  The tool allows maps of infestation risk and conservation priorities to be dynamic, adaptable, and up to date.  To go to the web maps home page click hereTo view the map, click the OPEN button below the map icon, and select the option to 'Open in map viewer' (first option).  You can click on an area to get a pop-up window to display.  The windows have a lot of information on the attributes of each of the priority areas, including the acres of hemlock (including areas where hemlock is very sparse) in each and the average basal area of hemlock. 

In the future, this web site will be a component of a website that will include other information about the initiative including collaboration, hemlock conservation, HWA, control measures, outreach, etc.  Development of that website will occur over the next several months, in conjunction with the formation of a Cooperative Forest Pest Management Area for the High Allegheny Plateau.  Further refinements to these areas, and the inclusion of further data, will continue to occur as new information is provided.

To view and article that appeared in the Society of American Foresters, The Forestry Source, November 2013, Vol. 18, No. 11 click here.

Special thanks to Sarah Johnson, Conservation GIS Analyst, The Nature Conservancy, for heading up this project and providing much of this material.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pennsylvania's Forests: 2009 Inventory Data Released

Wanted to provide an update on a publication released by the US Forest Service Inventory and Analysis section on the status of Pennsylvania's Forests.  A recent report entitled Pennsylvania’s Forests (2009 data) provides useful insights into the health and condition of the state’s woodlands.  In the past, statewide forest inventories conducted by the US Forest Service were periodic -- every 10 to 15 years. Starting in 2004 the data are collected annually and reported on a five year cycle.

Pennsylvania’s forest land area is stable, with some parts of the state gaining while others are losing forest cover. This has been the case since the mid-1960s.  Land use patterns suggest the forest land area stability is a function of offsetting of development in the southern tier as agriculture declines in the northern tier counties. The amount of forest cover has relatively constant at about 59 percent or about 16.7 million acres.

Most of this forest land, about 71 percent, is held privately by individuals, families, partnerships, and other entities not in the business of harvesting and using trees.  A recent Penn State study estimated there are 738,000 individual private ownerships in the state. Most of these ownerships are small parcels.  About 420,000 of these ownerships are smaller than 10 acres, and about 25 percent of the private forest is in ownerships of less than 20 acres. Statewide there are only about 25,000 privately owned forest tracts larger than 100 acres in size.

From a removal perspective, Pennsylvania is still growing more wood than it uses. Forest industry harvests trees for many uses and it is a major part of the state’s rural economy. The 2009 data finds that the growth to remove ratio is 2:1 for timberland – the forest is growing twice as much than is harvested.

The report conveys concerns about potential impacts from non-native insects and diseases that are increasingly affecting forests. Among these are gypsy moth, hemlock wooly adelgid, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle, thousand cankers disease, sudden oak death, and the list goes on. Added to this are the rapid invasion and expansion of non-native exotic plants that are filling our old fields and woodlands with aggressive competitors.

A truly problematic concern is the continuing failure to establish adequate tree regeneration (the next generation of trees) in woodlands disturbed by harvesting and other events. Using guidelines developed by the USDA Forest Research Lab near Warren, Pennsylvania, the 2009 inventory assessed adequacy of tree regeneration. When there was canopy disturbance sufficient to initiate and sustain seedling growth and development, only four of ten acres had sufficient desirable regeneration to replace the overstory.

To read the full news release by Dr. Jim Finley, Professor of Forest Resources at Penn State, click here. October 23, 2013.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Value of Using Wood: Wood Makes a Building Green

First, I wanted to share with my readers a new video that was recently released by the American Forest Foundation.  It is entitled Wood: A Better Way to Build and was produced in partnership with the US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory.  It provides a great argument for using wood as a green sustainable building material. 

Here are some of the talking points developed in the six minute video:
1.  Wood is the only major building material that is renewable and sustainable over the long term
2.  Wood provides a 70-80% reduction in emissions compared to concrete and steel
3.  Using wood contributes to the livelihood of 11 million private forest landowners across the US
4.  Using wood allows us to maintain healthy rural communities
5.  Wood feels good, is warm, and has a lot of aesthetic appeal

Next, this video compliments the recent announcement (October 25, 2013) concerning the US General Services Administration's (GSA) recognition of wood as a sustainable building material.  The GSA has agreed to recognize both Green Building Initiative's Green Globes and U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as viable green building rating systems.  For many years the GSA has only recognized LEED, which discourages the use of wood.  This means that the GSA, and other federal agencies, can choose not to use LEED.  This change will allow the federal government to use more wood in their buildings. To read the full announcement on click here.

Additional reasons why wood is a good choice:
- Wood is better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, and other impacts.  
- Wood helps reduce energy consumption across the life cycle of growth, harvest, transport, manufacture and construction compared to other structural building products. 
- Wood can improve energy efficiency, serving as an excellent insulator.    
- Wood products store carbon, helping to mitigate climate change.  
- Using wood helps to sustain our forests and increases our carbon storage potential.   
Compiled from the American Forest Foundation.

Friday, October 25, 2013

USDA Tax Tips for Forest Landowners Now Available for 2013

It's getting to be that time of year, landowners are beginning to think about getting their taxes in for 2013.  The USDA Forest Service has recently release their Tax Tips for 2013.  The annual bulletin provides federal income tax reporting tips to assist forest landowners and their advisors in filing their 2013 income tax returns.  The tip sheet provides useful examples and calculations landowners can use to assist them in calculating their own tax. 

To find other useful information go to the Forest Service Timber Taxation page.  The Tax Tips sheet is prepared by Linda Wang, National Timber Tax Specialist and John Green, Research Forester, Southern Research Station (retired).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Impact of Various Timber Harvesting Practices on Songbirds

Hooded Warbler
I wanted to share the research project with my readers.  It is certainly applicable to Pennsylvania with the big push in the state to create early successional and young forest habitat.  A research paper was recently published in the journal Forest Management and Ecology.  The article is entitled Long-term response to disturbance-associated birds after different timber harvests.  The research was conducted by Roger Perry and Ronald Thill both from the US Forest Service Southern Research Station.  The authors looked at changes in early successional bird abundances of 12 species for 16 years after harvest under 4 regeneration methods.  These included: clearcutting, shelterwood, single-tree selection, and group-selection harvests.

Here are some of the highlights of their research findings:
1. Detection rates generally peaked 5 years after harvest.
2. Clearcuts retained some species for longer periods than other treatments.
3. Some species benefitted more from partial harvesting than clearcutting.
4. Greater expanses of partial harvests may be needed to sustain population levels similar to those 
    found in clearcuts.
Timber harvest provides favorable habitat for many species of shrub-dependent birds. Because of historical dominance, effect of clearcutting on early successional birds has been widely studied, but less information is available on alternatives such as shelterwood and group selection, which have become a more dominant means of regenerating pines (Pinus spp.) on federal lands of the southeastern US. We compared detection of 12 species of early successional forest birds prior to harvest and at various intervals for 16 years after harvest in stands subjected to clearcutting, shelterwood, single-tree selection, and group-selection harvests. We also compared detection rates of these species between harvested and unharvested control stands.
To read the full abstract and view some of the tables click here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Deer-Forest Study

A new Deer-Forest Study is now underway in Pennsylvania.  The DCNR Bureau of Forestry in partnership with Penn State University, The PA Game Commission, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit are taking a closer look at deer, forest, and hunter interactions on 3 state forests in central and north central Pennsylvania; the Bald Eagle, Rothrock and Susquehannock State Forests. 

The study will examine the impacts deer have on forest regeneration, and the current methods used to evaluate those impacts.  Deer impact on forest regeneration is one of the most important habitat measure used in making deer management recommendations.  This study will allow DCNR foresters and Game Commission biologists to better understand deer impacts on regeneration and separate it from other factors influencing forest regeneration success. 

Researchers will be investigating deer numbers, impacts on vegetation, and impacts of deer on forest regeneration and plant species composition in both Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) and non-DMAP areas.  DMAP allows landowners to harvest additional antlerless deer from their properties in addition to any doe licenses allocated to the corresponding wildlife management unit by the Commission.  Field data will be collected on forest regeneration, deer impacts, deer populations, and forest-management practices.

Hunters will also be involved in the Deer-Forest Study.  The study will assess hunter activities and experiences through hunter surveys and gathering information on their activities while hunting the study areas.  Hunters are asked to register when hunting these study areas.  Hunters can view maps and register by visiting the White-tailed Deer page at the Game Commission’s website then clicking on the “Deer-Forest Study” link in the “Research and Surveys” or by clicking hereStudy areas will be clearly marked with signs in parking lots and along roads.

To summarize, a better understanding of deer impacts in real-world conditions in Pennsylvania will help ensure that recommendations made to reduce deer populations due to forest impacts are truly necessary.

To read the PA Game Commission's full news release click here: Hunters Crucial To Deer-Forest Study, October 7, 2013, Travis Lau. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

BMP's for Timber Harvesting and Invasive Plants

When trying to control invasive plants we often talk about using an integrated approach or "integrated vegetation management."  I write about this on my Forest Vegetation Management web site.  Each form of control is highlighted with an emphasis on chemical since this is often the most productive approach when manpower and dollars are limited.  It was brought to may attention that the US Forest Service has a new publication out entitled Proposed BMP's for Invasive Plant Mitigation During Timber Harvesting Operations.  I thought I would share this with my readers, since my vegetation site does not specifically address the disturbance opportunity associated with timber harvesting. 

Invasive plants are opportunistic and disturbance adapted.  This is something I have really begun to notice about the ongoing battle with invasive plants.  On many properties visited I have been reluctant to recommend a harvest since it often means opening the door for invasive plants to get a strong hold on the site.  It can be a tremendous cost in time and money to keep invasive plants under control.  By implementing some of the Best Management Practices (BMP's) outlined in the publication maybe we can keep the invasion of invasive plants to a minimum.  It is certainly something to consider prior to harvesting.

Abstract: The invasion and spread of invasive plants is a major problem in forested ecosystems. Invasive plants can displace existing vegetation and in some cases take over the site. With the displacement of native vegetation come major ecosystem changes that may jeopardize ecological processes and functions as well as habitat for wildlife. The disturbance caused during timber harvesting processes creates conditions that encourage the establishment and spread of invasive plants. The machinery and traffic movement within a job site may introduce and spread seeds, roots, and plant parts from one job site to another. In this report, we address the timber harvesting processes and the disturbance that is created; explain how seeds, roots, and other parts of invasive plants can be spread; address the opportunity costs involved and those responsible; and propose voluntary BMPs for invasive plant mitigation during timber harvesting operations.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Looking at Four Centuries of Change in Northeast Forests

A Harvard-Smithsonian study released on September 5th in PLOS ONE compared modern forests to their pre-colonial condition.  The purpose of the study was to answer the fundamental question: How similar are today's forests to those existing prior to European colonization?  What they found might surprise you. 

Researchers looked across a 9 state region from Pennsylvania to Maine comparing more than 300,000 witness tree records and compared them to modern US Forest Service data.  The northeastern United States is a predominately forested region (80% forested) that has undergone a 400-year history of intense logging, land clearing for agriculture, land abandonment, and natural reforestation. During the 18th and 19th centuries more than half the forestland was cleared for agriculture and cut for timber. Most farms were eventually abandoned, and during the 20th century, forests returned. 

A view of the Swift River Valley in Central Massachusetts,
 photographed in 1890. The image shows extensive forest
 clearing for agriculture.
Photo courtesy of the Harvard Forest Archive.
The same view photographed today. Forests have made
 a similar recovery in many parts of the Northeastern U.S.
Photo by David Foster.
Below are a number of key findings:
1. Looking only at a tree species list Northeast forests haven't changed.
2. Maples have exploded across the Northeast, increasing by more than 20%.
3. Beeches, oaks, and chestnuts have declined sharply.  This is of concern for wildlife depending on nuts for winter survival.
4. Pine numbers have shifted more than any other tree type, increasing in some places, decreasing elsewhere.
5. Colonial farming history was found to be the most powerful factor in determining modern forest composition -- more powerful than regional climate, soil conditions, and numerous other factors.
6. Todays forests are more homogenous and less responsive to small changes in temperature and precipitation.

David Foster, a co-author on the study, indicated that despite the impacts of disturbances such as forest clearing, widespread logging, fires, climate change, invasive pests, and disease, the Northeast remains the most heavily forested region of the country.  Foster also notes, "If we do not replace forests with houses and pavement, they will endure future challenges as well."

Click here to read the news release, browse photos, download the full scientific paper, and more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why We Must Engage the Next Generation of Hunters

I came across this post on a Nature Conservancy site.  Thought I would share with my readers.  The post was made on August 22nd on their Science page by Allen Pursell.  On August 28th the story was picked up by Forbes writer William Pentland.  I often speak about the impact of deer on forest regeneration and their influence on the predominance of invasive plants in Pennsylvania.  Here are some numbers that I often share:

In timber stands that are only 40-70% stocked and in need of regeneration to replace trees that were harvested or died from natural causes nearly half lack the advanced regeneration necessary to regenerate.

When looking at only tree seedling species considered desirable for timber production: Almost 2/3's of the acres would likely fail to regenerate.
If we include all commercial species then: Half would likely fail to regenerate.
Lastly, if we include all woody species, this includes those that are not commercial or desirable, then we are still only at 54% meeting the regeneration criteria.  Again, nearly half would fail to regenerate.
(2009 data collected by the US Forest Service Forest inventory and Analysis)

From what I have seen around the state this has not changed much over the past 4 years.  I would suspect that very similar conditions still exist.  Can all this be attributed to deer?  Another study conducted in NW PA found that in 85% of the cases when the forest failed to regenerate simply excluding the deer made the difference.  That leaves 15% of the failures attributed to other reasons.  Give the below articles a read and let me know what you think?  Is this issue bigger than climate change?  Are these reasons to begin engaging our youth?

Here is a link to a Penn State Extension publication and curriculum you may find interesting and helpful when engaging youth.
From the Woods: White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer Lesson Plans

Too Many Deer: A Bigger Threat to Eastern Forests than Climate Change?
(The Nature Conservancy, August 22, 2013)

In August, 2012 The Bloomberg View published a staff editorial entitled Deer Infestation Calls for Radical Free-Market Solution. The Wall Street Journal then ran a story in November 2012 entitled America Gone Wild, noting the impact of overabundant deer. If business news organizations can talk freely about deer, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) needs to speak openly as well. Aldo Leopold long ago warned us of the problems of a growing deer herd. Have we waited too long to heed his advice, or is there still time to reverse the damage done?

No native vertebrate species in the eastern United States has a more direct effect on habitat integrity than the white-tailed deer. There are no hard numbers, but in many states deer populations continue to rise well beyond historical norms. In many areas of the country deer have changed the composition and structure of forests by preferentially feeding on select plant species.

To read the full story click here.

Move Over Global Warming! White-tailed Deer Pose Biggest Threat to East Coast Forests
(Forbes, August 28, 2013)

The rapidly rising population of white-tailed deer pose a more significant threat to forest habitats across the eastern United States than global warming according to a new study by The Nature Conservancy.

To read the full story click here.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Forest Regrowth in Clearcuts Vital to Birds

Black-throated green warblers like this one
 were abundant in harvested openings
 following the breeding season.
Recently came across this interesting article on ScienceDaily.Com.  It looks at the issues surrounding declining forest-interior bird species.  In the past we largely looked at preserving large intact tracts of mature forest where birds breed.  In this study, performed by Scott Stoleson of the US Forest Service's Northern Research Station, interior breeding birds were followed through the use of mist netting and banding following the breeding season and just prior to migration to assess their overall condition.  What he found is quite telling and suggest that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration.

Science Daily: Science News, August 21, 2013
Efforts to conserve declining populations of forest-interior birds have largely focused on preserving the mature forests where birds breed, but a U.S. Forest Service study suggests that in the weeks leading up to migration, younger forest habitat may be just as important.

In an article published recently in the American Ornithologist Union's publication The Auk, research wildlife biologist Scott Stoleson of the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station suggests that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration.

The study suggests that declines in forest-interior species may be due in part to the increasing maturity and homogenization of forests. Openings created by timber harvesting may increase habitat for some forest interior birds, according to Stoleson. "Humans have really changed the nature of mature forests in the Northeast," Stoleson said. "Natural processes that once created open spaces even within mature forests, such as fire, are largely controlled, diminishing the availability of quality habitat."

To read the full story click here.

This story is a great follow-up to a post a made back on March 25, 2013.
Young Forests Equal Healthy Habitat for Wildlife

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forest Fast Breaks - short videos on the benefits of forests

Forest Fast Breaks from
I recently learned about a web site put out by Dovetail Partners, Inc. called  The site has a lot of educational information on it.  Dovetail Partners, Inc. provides information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives.

One of the things I found particularly interesting and useful on the site were their Forest Fast Breaks.  These are great short videos covering a host of different forest related topics from Clearcutting to Green Building and Reforestation.  Their purpose is to: "simplify complex forestry topics into concise, engaging animated shorts with sound affects and narration." I watched a couple and they were fairly good. They might be of interest in your outreach, work with youth, etc or just to watch and learn.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Some Good News About Emerald Ash Borer

Woodpecker holes looking for EAB larva.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive highly destructive wood-boring insect that attacks ash trees, was first discovered in SE Michigan in 2002.  Since that time it has killed more than  40 million ash trees in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and Illinois.  In Pennsylvania is has now been detected in 41 counties, Erie County was just recently added to the list.  It has now become an international problem, occurring on more 18 states and Canada and is expected to cost in the billions of dollars in tree loss, control, and eradication efforts.  State and federal regulatory agencies have made EAB a top priority.

So what could possibly be good about the loss of ash trees (white, green, and black ash) from this destructive insect?  Well, apparently if you are a woodpecker this insect is a great food source and a boom to your population.  Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service and Cornell University were able to document huge population increases in 3 species of woodpeckers (downy, hairy, and red-bellied) as well as the white-breasted nuthatch, a bark gleaning species.  These species have figured out that EAB is edible and it has actually helped them to increase their reproductive success.  Even as tree are killed these species stand to benefit from an abundance of possible cavity trees for nesting.

EAB larva under bark.
So as federal, state, and local authorities work to find ways to slow the spread of the insect or stop it altogether many birds species are actually be benefiting from the increased food supply. 

Increase in Woodpecker Populations Linked to Feasting on Emerald Ash Borer
MORGANTOWN, WV, August 8, 2013 - The scourge of forests, the emerald ash borer, or EAB, is usually described with words like “destructive” and “pest.” A recent study based on data collected by citizen scientists suggests that one more adjective might apply, at least from a bird’s perspective: “delicious.”
In a study published this week in the journal Biological Invasions, U.S. Forest Service entomologist Andrew Liebhold and Cornell Universityscientist Walter Koenig and others document how an EAB invasion fueled a population boom for four species of birds in the Detroit area.

To read the full story click here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pennsylvania Earns Top Honors at 2013 National 4-H Forestry Invitational

Left to Right: Caleb Brady, Thomas Brady, Jesse Isenberg,
Ashlee Early, Deb Beisel (Coach), and Tom Brady
 Pennsylvania placed first among 13 state teams that competed in the 34th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational from Sunday, July 21, through Thursday, July 25. Teams from Alabama and New York placed second and third, respectively.

The invitational was held at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, West Virginia. The event is sponsored by Farm Credit System, The Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., The Society of American Foresters, West Virginia University Extension Service, The American Forest Foundation, and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.

While at the Invitational 4-H members competed for overall team and individual awards in several categories. Events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry bowl and a written forestry exam.

Pennsylvania was represented by Jesse Isenberg from Indiana, Thomas Brady and Caleb Brady both from Clymer. The team was coached by Deborah Beisel from Clymer and Ashlee Early from Wellsboro.

Seth Junkin from Alabama received the high point individual award. Second place high individual award was given to Clint Moss also from Alabama and third place high individual award was given to Adele Keiderling from New York.

The Joe Yeager “Spirit of the Invitational” award was given to Amy Burkhalter of Oklahoma. This award recognizes an outstanding 4-H contestant at the Invitational. It is presented to the individual who takes initiative, is enthusiastic, and is eager to lead academic and social situations.

4-H is a youth education program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the state land grant universities. More than six million youth, 540,000 volunteers, and 3,500 professionals participate in 4-H nationwide, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H Forestry Program.

For more information on the National 4-H Forestry Invitational, click here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pennsylvania's Tree Farmer of the Year Hosting Field Day

Beartown Family Partnership and Penn State Extension-Centre County are pleased to be offering the Woodlot Management Tree Farm Field Day hosted by Pennsylvania’s 2012 Tree Farmer of the Year. The field day is scheduled for Saturday, August 17, 2013 from 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM at the Beartown Family Tree Farm located just south of Snow Shoe, Pennsylvania.

The Beartown Family Tree Farm is a 2,087 acre property owned by the third generation of the Shoemaker family. The property is located at the head of the Beech Creek watershed on the Allegheny Front in Central Pennsylvania. The field day will provide presentations and discussions on integrating natural gas and wind energy resource development with good forest and wildlife management. Tours will include discussions of water and soil protection and site management during and after development and current management practices.

Two tours, one walking and one driving, will examine various aspects of the property including: managing water quality in forested watersheds with and without other resource development, deer exclosures, how to support family recreation needs, pollinator habitat enhancement, forest road development, Bear Rocks and archeology studies, wind farm development on forested properties, using trail cameras to help with wildlife management, and timber salvage in the aftermath of gypsy moth infestation.

To register click here or call Penn State Extension at 814-355-4897. Participants must be pre-registered by Monday, August 12, 2013. A $20.00 fee is being charged per person to cover program costs, including lunch. For questions please contact Dave Jackson in the Centre County Extension office at 814-355-4897 or e-mail

Penn State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of special accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, contact Dave Jackson, Penn State Cooperative Extension-Centre County at 814-355-4897 in advance of your participation or visit.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

Environmental Curriculum for Youth

The US Forest Service Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry recently produced an attractive book entitled "Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?" along with an on-line mini-curriculum.  While the book is available as a hard copy for $10 at the US Government Bookstore, it is also downloadable as a PDF for free (careful, this is a very large file).  This book might be useful to you at camp or at other youth group programs, especially on rainy days.  It covers a very important issue that kids are often confused about.  You could have kids taking turns reading the "pages" or simply choose a narrator to read it to the group.  This should open the door for additional group discussion on the topic.  The mini-curriculum also has great ideas for extensions and follow-up activities.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is Habitat Quality a Reason for Fewer Deer in Pennsylvania?

An article published in Outdoor Life caught my attention. The article was entitled Public Land Deer Hunting: How to Save America's Deer Woods by Frank Miniter. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you give it a read. The article highlights a deer hunters experience in NY's Catskill Mountains. Having worked in the Catskills I was interested in what the writer had to say. I also wondered if it might relate to public lands found in Pennsylvania. The writer is concerned about declining deer and wildlife populations in general caused by aging habitat and maturing forests. Miniter states, "These are big woods, and getting bigger. These days, both the game and the hunters are mostly gone."

Here is a quote from the article which sums it up, "Most agencies, however, have a hard time finding the funding and authority to make sure there is enough early successional habitat (what hunters often refer to as “cover”). Examples of this include overgrown pastures, thickets, and saplings. If these habitats are not mowed, burned, cut, or disturbed in some fashion, they eventually become forest. If a forest is never thinned, flooded, impacted by insects, or burned, it grows into a mature canopy that prevents sunlight from reaching the forest floor. When this happens a lot of wildlife and plant species disappear."

What the author is referring to is the process known as succession. Succession is the natural progression from one predominant vegetation type to another over time in the absence of disturbance. Understanding succession is important when managing habitat for wildlife. Some wildlife species are adapted to a specific successional stage of growth, such as grasslands or mature forest. Land managers can manipulate habitat to maintain the stage of forest succession necessary to support sufficient numbers of a particular wildlife species. White-tailed deer are adapted to a broad range of successional stages but do best in early successional habitat. One of the top threats to white-tailed deer populations is maturing forests. Mature forests do not provide sufficient food and cover to support large numbers of deer. In contrast, young forests or old fields transitioning to forest provide optimal deer habitat.

Abandoned agricultural field provide
excellent habitat for deer.
In forested areas habitat quality for deer is dictated not only by the species of trees present but also by the range of age classes found. A wide range of age classes is important as it provides a diversity of habitat types. Young forests are necessary to provide browse ie. leaves, twigs, and buds for deer to feed on. A mature deer needs between 4 and 10 pounds of browse daily. A mature forest produces on average 50-100 pounds of browse per acre while a young forest can produce 1,000-2,000 pounds of browse per acre. Based on this alone, it is clear that young forest habitats can sustain many more deer than mature forests. Mature forests are important for providing mast (acorns and nuts). But, mast crops vary from year to year, with some years being in great abundance and others completely absent. The fact is deer need a variety of habitat types and a diversity of age classes to provide their day to day needs.

In doing a bit more research I found the issue concerning the loss of early successional habitat is not isolated to New York state but is also an issue in Pennsylvania as well as many other eastern states. The 2009 Whitetail Report (pages 33-36) prepared by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) provides an excellent overview of the issue in the Quality Deer Habitat section of the report. QDMA authors indicate that extended deer seasons and increased antlerless licenses are often to blame as the sole reason for hunters seeing fewer deer in some areas. However, they are quick to point out, providing proper habitat is essential for maintaining any wildlife population be it deer or any other species. The authors indicate that balancing deer herds with habitat is best accomplished through a two-pronged approach consisting of harvesting the appropriate number of does while simultaneously improving habitat.

In 2006 the USDA Forest Service Inventory and Analysis data indicated that Pennsylvania had 1,795,527 acres of young forest habitat, down more than 700,000 acres from the 1989 inventory. Some of this habitat was lost to development but much of it simply grew up into a larger size class of trees, called the pole stage. This represents a significant loss of young forest habitat since young forests in Pennsylvania's make up only 11% of the total. If the loss of young forests continues our habitat will support not only fewer deer but also fewer upland game birds, numerous songbirds, and many other wildlife species dependent on this habitat type.

Many hunters have enjoyed high deer densities in the past. Often times these high numbers were directly associated with large amounts of young forest and early successional habitat. As the number of acres of young forests is reduced and forests mature, the number of deer and other wildlife species dependent upon this habitat type is also reduced. Expanded seasons and increased allocations are often to blame for decreased deer sightings but don't discount the importance of habitat. The loss of early successional habitat and young forests may just be the overriding factor as to why there are fewer whitetails in the deer woods.

Today, biologists have taken up an initiative called the Young Forest Initiative in an attempt to reverse this trend.  For more informaiton on the initiative see posts dated April 4, 2013, Young Forest Communications Toolkit, and March 25, 2013, Young Forests Equal Healthy Habitat for Wildlife.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Emerald Ash Borer Community Preparedness Manual

Bark removed to show larval galleries.
The University of Minnesota Natural Resources Extension has just released an Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Community Preparedness Manual.  I thought I would share it with my readers since emerald ash borer is rapidly moving across Pennsylvania.  Recent maps show EAB in all counties except for the northern tier of the state and the extreme southeast.  It is also in 14 states and 2 Canadian provinces.

Emerald ash borer is a devastating wood-boring tree pest that has killed millions of ash trees in the eastern and central U.S. A large percentage of urban and community trees in Pennsylvania are ash species, all of which are vulnerable to EAB. While EAB is all but impossible to eradicate once it arrives in an area, well-planned response efforts can slow its spread and reduce the impact on urban and community forests. A response plan is important because it provides a community with the opportunity to plan ahead to spread the costs and losses associated with the impacts of EAB. The new EAB Community Preparedness Manual can help communities plan ahead to reduce costs and losses from this invasive pest.

The manual includes numerous resources from across the country compiled to help a community prepare for the arrival of EAB, including topics such as general emerald ash borer information, managing emerald ash borer, tree inventories and replacement, quarantine and regulation, firewood information, insecticide options, wood utilization, and examples of available educational outreach materials. The manual was compiled by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota with assistance from other organizations. For more information click here. (University of Minnesota Forest Resources Extension, June 2013)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tutorials Available for Youth Address Water's Role in Shale Gas Drilling

Water's Role in Gas Drilling - On-line Curriculum Resources for Educators, Teens, and Adults

Penn State Extension has just released new curriculum on water's role in gas drilling and is excited to share it those who might find it of interest. Two new, youth-oriented online presentations explore the role of water in shale-gas drilling and production in the mid-Atlantic region. These self-running presentations were designed for use by educators in both formal and informal
educational settings. Although geared towards youths in grades 6 through 10, they also are appropriate for adults who may want to learn more about this topic.

The first presentation, "A Water Drop on a Journey -- Shale Gas Drilling in the Mid-Atlantic," is aimed at the 6th- through 9th-grade levels. It is based on the recent Penn State Extension publication, "Water's Journey through the Shale Gas Drilling and Production Processes in the Mid-Atlantic Region."

The second presentation, "True or False -- Common Concerns About Water and Shale Gas Drilling in the Mid-Atlantic Region," addresses current environmental issues and misconceptions surrounding shale-gas drilling and production and is targeted to 8th- through 10th-grade viewers.

CDs of these presentations are also available by contacting Sanford Smith,, and providing a complete mailing address.

You can access additional Penn State water resources for youth by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Woods in Your Backyard Workshop Opportunity

Penn State Extension-Centre County and its partners are pleased to be offering the Woods in Your Backyard Workshop. This workshop is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, 2013 at the Forest Resources Building, Penn State University Park Campus. The workshop is scheduled from 9:00 AM - 3:15 PM.

Do you have woods in your backyard? Would you like to reduce your lawn, plant trees, and invite wildlife to your suburban lot? Would you like to learn how to be a better steward of your parcel of land? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this workshop is for you.

Penn State Extension, Forestry For the Bay, Clearwater Conservancy, Penn State Master Gardeners, and the Centre County Conservation District have assembled outstanding speakers who will share their knowledge with you about creating or improving wildlife habitat, tree identification and care, tree planting and native landscaping, forest ecology, woodlot management techniques, invasive plant identification, and more.

Enhancing or creating natural areas and woodland on your property reduces mowing, welcomes wildlife, and creates a backyard forest. Owners of even just a few acres can make a positive difference in the environment through planning and implementing simple stewardship practices. If your lot connects to other lots, there’s ample opportunity to make an even bigger impact by getting neighbors involved!

To register go to: or call Penn State Extension at 814-355-4897. Participants must be pre-registered by Monday June 17, 2013. A $20.00 fee is being charged per person to cover program costs ($35 for multiple registrants from the same household, (Includes lunch and educational materials). For questions please contact the Penn State Extension office in Centre County at 814-355-4897 or e-mail

The workshop uses the manual The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home. The full-color, 139-page manual guides land owners to:

•Learn why you should manage your land.
•Map your land, assess why you bought it, and decide what you hope to get out of it.
•Understand how your land relates to the land around you.
•Identify land management units on your property.
•Learn basics of tree identification, forestry, and wildlife habitat management.
•Assess your property’s water resources, recreational possibilities, and aesthetic appeal, and ways to improve each.
•Choose a few land management projects to help meet your goals.
•Set a timetable and mark progress.

The manual is provided at the workshop and is included in the registration fee. Manual also available separately from: Publication Number: NRAES-184, cost: $18.00 / Published: 2006.