Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pennsylvania Woodland Owners Announced as National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

Woodland owners from Pennsylvania honored for efforts to support forest habitat for wildlife

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 20, 2015)The American Tree Farm System (ATFS), awarded the National Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year award, sponsored in part by Plum Creek, to Raul Chiesa and Janet Sredy of Elizabeth, Pennsylvania (PA). Chiesa and Sredy, managers of Becket Run Woodlands, have demonstrated exceptional forest stewardship in improving wildlife habitat on their 110-acre property and more broadly in the community (Click here to watch video of Raul and Janet at Tree Farm). 

Raul and Janet were presented this high achievement by Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Robert Bonnie and Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation (AFF), the organization that runs ATFS.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Janet Sredy and Raul Chiesa for being chosen as the National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year. Janet and Raul’s work in transforming Beckets Run Woodlands shows that we all must take part in conserving and protecting our forests,” Senator Casey said. “Forestry is close to the heart of many people across our region, serving as a major part of our heritage and our economy. As a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, I have and will continue to support any efforts in protecting National Forests, especially in Pennsylvania. But the work Janet and Raul do, has a lasting effect on how we ensure the continued stewardship of Pennsylvania’s woodlands. Thank you both for your continued work.”

“Family forest owners like Raul and Janet are some of the unsung heroes of our forests,” said Under Secretary Robert Bonnie. ”Many don’t realize that family forest owners are the largest ownership group of forests in the U.S. What’s more, the work they do on their land, is felt far beyond their properties – for wildlife habitat, clean water, recreation and more.”

Chiesa and Sredy, who took ownership of Beckets Run Woodlands, within the State designated Beckets Run Biodiversity Area, in 2007, found themselves managers of a severely damaged property due to poor agriculture practices, air pollution, vandalism and fractured ownership. Wildlife in the area struggled to move through the underbrush and lacked the needed food because of invasive species and disease. Chiesa and Sredy immediately created a management plan and set on a path to restore the native ecosystem, improving the health of their trees, eradicating invasives and planting species that provided food for wildlife. Not long after, they were certified in the American Tree Farm System and enrolled in the U.S. Forest Service Forest Stewardship Program with the support of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry.

In a state known for deer hunting, Chiesa and Sredy saw an opportunity to provide for the wildlife, while also providing for the community. They established a wildlife management partnership with neighboring landowners and the Pennsylvania Game Commission to improve wildlife and game, and provide recreational hunting to more than 100 hunters. Chiesa and Sredy have also formed an educational partnership with neighbors, the local university and Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to protect and study rare Pennsylvania plant species.

“Our Tree Farmers are significantly contributing beyond their own property boundaries, and they are doing it in fresh, creative ways,” said Tom Martin of AFF. “Recognizing and honoring individuals like Janet and Raul is the least we can do to thank them.”

ATFS, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, began the time-honored tradition of recognizing a National Outstanding Tree Farmer from the more than 82,000 Tree Farmers in the 1970s. Individuals considered for the award must demonstrate exceptional efforts to preserve and enhance their woodlands, which includes conserving and enhancing clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreational activities, and the wood for homes and paper products that come from their land, all of which are exemplified on the ATFS sign. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Get Involved with 4-H in Your State and Help Get Youth Outdoors!

Did you know that your state Cooperative Extension service has 4-H curriculum available to help teach youth about the outdoors, about wildlife, and even about forestry? Through local 4-H community clubs and special interest groups, opportunities exist to work with youth from age 8-18 teaching them about a wide range of outdoor related topics. A visit to the 4-HMall ( shows a host of outdoor related curriculum books readily available for youth, many with facilitator guides. Some outdoor related titles include entomology, fishing, forestry, environment, and outdoor adventures. Combine those with state level curriculum on everything from camping, wildlife management, orienteering, archery, and riflery and there is no excuse not to find something that will interest our youth and get them outside learning about and experiencing nature.

So how does 4-H work?  4-H is completely volunteer driven, generally under the direction of a county based 4-H educator. Local adult volunteers lead either community clubs or special interest groups. 4-H youth have the opportunity to participate in all kinds of projects, events, and activities. While activities focus mainly on the local 4-H club or group, members may also participate in group activities and events such as fairs, trips, camps, teen leader trainings, fundraising activities, achievement programs, community service, as well as county, regional and state learning opportunities. 4-H relies on parent and adult volunteer participation to help provide many of these opportunities.

An “Outdoors Club” would be one type of special interest group that could be formed. There are many others, including livestock groups and even robotics! Members of an outdoors club may meet on a formal basis with elected youth officers and hold regular meetings, or meet informally to work on projects or host activities. Monthly meetings provide an opportunity to keep the membership up to date and plan upcoming events. They also provide an opportunity to bring in special guests to work with youth on particular topics of interest. For example, youth in Pennsylvania might be preparing to attend the annual 4-H Wildlife and Forestry Field Day. Sessions might revolve around hosting subject matter experts who can work with youth to teach what they need to know to compete in the forestry judging or wildlife habitat evaluation competitions.

To start an outdoors club in your area begin by talking to your county 4-H Educator in the Cooperative Extension office. Most counties are in need of adult volunteer leaders and would welcome the opportunity to offer such a program in their area. Find out what 4-H in your state is already offering that may be outdoor related. As I mentioned above, many outdoor related curriculum books already exist. Don’t be deterred if you don’t feel you have the subject matter expertise, all you need is the interest and the desire to work with youth and get them outdoors. Subject matter experts can be brought in to teach things like how to plan a hike, shoot a bow, use a compass, identify trees, or collect insects. The important thing is to get started. Find a place to meet, advertise your club to the current 4-H membership and to schools, put an ad in the local paper, and find a way to get area youth and other adult leaders involved.

4-H Forestry is just one example of what 4-H has to offer that gets kids outdoors. There are many other opportunities. An outdoors club may be just what is needed in your area to get kids outside experiencing all Mother Nature has to offer. I hope you will consider becoming a 4-H volunteer leader. Your leadership will provide youth and your community with invaluable experiences. Contact your county 4-H coordinator to get started.

A new 2 minute video by the US Forest Service illustrates many of the positive effects on the bodies and minds of kids who play outdoors.  Watch the video on You Tube here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Early Successional Habitat for Deer and Other Wildlife Species

Early successional habitat, also called young forests, is declining.  During the last half century the number of acres in the east and upper mid-west has dwindled.  Many acres have been lost to development.  Also, as brushy areas mature to become middle-aged and older forests, they cease being useful to numerous species that need young woods.

The American woodcock, or timberdoodle, is considered the umbrella species for young forests.  Woodcock represent all of the animals that use young forests during part or all of their life cycle.  By creating habitat for woodcock we can halt and reverse the decline in their numbers while helping more than 50 other kinds of wildlife.  To create habitat we must restore, create, and maintain young forests by cutting trees in a sustainable manner or abandoning agricultural activities on non-productive lands. 

Because young forests mature quite rapidly, within 10-15 years, management activities need to be frequent and ongoing.  Abandoned agricultural fields can be maintained in an early successional stage of growth by periodically disking them on a 3-5 year rotation.  Mowing is discouraged as it promotes grasses.  Young forested areas can be re-cut periodically or new areas harvested as others mature.

To learn about the kinds of wildlife that use young forests and more specifically how to create and maintain it visit the Young Forest Project web site.  To learn more view the “Young Forest Informational Video.”

What about deer and early successional habitat?  Do they benefit from this type of habitat?
Yes, they absolutely do.  Young forests and old overgrown fields provide invaluable habitat for deer, providing both food and cover.  Kip Adams from the Quality Deer Management Association recently released a short video describing the benefits of early successional habitat to deer.  I have provided a link to his video and story below.

Better Hunting with Early Successional Cover
By Kip Adams
September 3, 2015
Want more deer to spend time on your hunting area while also moving more in daylight hours? In this video, I share one of the best-kept secrets for making this happen: early successional cover! We talk a lot about timber management, and food plots certainly get lots of press, but providing early successional cover like I show in this video can greatly increase available forage. Because deer feel "safe" in this heavy cover, they also move more during daylight and use a greater percentage of your hunting area. This cover type can even help hide fawns from predators. Watch now to learn more!

For more on this topic see previous posts: