Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Story of Penns Woods

I wanted to share with my readers a story that appeared in the Pittsburgh City Paper.  The story is entitled "A century ago, Pennsylvania stood almost entirely stripped of trees."  It tells the history of Penns Woods, a much different story than what we have today.  Here are some interesting facts about Pennsylvania's forests.
- Forests cover 59%, 16.58 million acres 9 up from a low of 32%, 9.2 million acres in 1907
- 71% of forests are privately owned, 12 million acres
- 30,000+ acres of true old growth
- Forest cover has remained relatively constant since 1965
- Mixed Oak and Northern Hardwoods are most common forest types
- 10 most common tree species in order: red maple, black birch, black cherry, beech, sugar maple, hemlock, white ash, red oak, chestnut oak, and black gum

Today, as in the past, Pennsylvania's forests and woodlands are an amazing resource.  They provide untold economic, ecological, and social value.  While most think the state owns the forest resource, the reality is seven out of ten acres are privately owned.  The decisions these owners make today greatly impact all the values we receive as benefits from our forests now and into the future.

Managing Penn's Woods is not without its challenges.  Urban sprawl, invasive plants, insects, and diseases, poor harvesting practices, forest regeneration, and energy development are just some of the struggles facing today's forest owners.  To keep this vital resource healthy forests must be managed.  Every day we are challenged to keep forest working as forests.

A century ago, Pennsylvania stood almost entirely stripped of trees
By Bill O'Driscoll
August 19, 2015
Pittsburgh City Paper

This slide depicts the impacts of horse logging
It takes a lot longer to repair environmental destruction than it does to perpetrate it. Look out the window while driving the turnpike, or flying across the state, and you’ll surely consider Pennsylvania pretty well forested. Hike a state park or forest, same deal: Despite centuries of farming, logging and heavy industry, and such recent incursions as the fracking boom, the commonwealth still has, if nothing else, plenty of leaves overhead.

But that canopy camouflages an astounding fact: About a century ago, Pennsylvania stood almost entirely stripped of trees. In 1895, say state records, Pennsylvania contained some 9 million forested acres. That was about one-third of the acreage forested before Europeans arrived. And most of what was left was less real forest than underbrush, prone to soil erosion, and to wildfires that charred hundreds of thousands of acres a year. In a state of 28.7 million acres that was once almost completely tree-covered, only a few hundred acres of true old growth remained. As described in a 1995 history of the state’s Department of Forestry, ours was a landscape “of stumps and ashes.”

Mostly to blame was unchecked logging, especially the several decades of intensive logging that began in the mid-1800s. To read the rest of the story click here.

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