Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why the Forestry “Profession” Should Harshly Criticize High-Grading

The below opinion piece was originally printed in the Winter 2016 issue of the National Woodlands magazine, of the National Woodland Owners Association. It addresses such an important topic and a common problem here in Pennsylvania that I received permission from the author as well as the magazine editor to reprint it here. Please feel free to write a response and share your thoughts after reading it.

Why the Forestry “Profession” Should Harshly Criticize High-Grading
by Dan Pubanz 

In the Autumn 2015 issue of National Woodlands was an article discussing why landowners high-grade their forests. While the explanations of these causes are clear, the concluding paragraph stated that “the forestry profession should be careful about harshly criticizing these short-term actions until we can provide long-term movement toward sustained yields while meeting short term economic and ecological needs.” If the forestry profession truly considers itself a reputable profession, it should vigorously disagree with this statement.

The woods on left were high graded 20 years ago, the right likely awaits the same fate.
While a lack of landowner understanding can often be a cause of high-grading, in many cases, high-grading is actually implemented by formally trained foresters.  In the most egregious situations, it is knowingly imposed by the forester on an unknowledgeable landowner.  Even more insidious are the more subtle degrades that take just the highest-quality trees from a forest and camouflage it by also taking a few other lower-grade trees. Foresters have long lamented the public’s poor perception of the practice of forestry and the forestry profession. Every high-graded woodlot only reinforces that perception and we are kidding ourselves of we think it doesn’t. Landowners are free to do with their land as they see fit and landowner-instigated high-grading will continue. However, a forester should never be involved in that process.

The problem of high-grading lies, fundamentally, with a lack of ethics. In forestry, we are asked to condone short-term greed that produces long-term detrimental impacts, both to the land and to the community. While other professions have standards that are supposed to curtail short-term greed (at least in theory), in forestry we accept this greed with a shrug. High-grading a forest is not justifiable even if driven by financial need. It would be far better for a cash-strapped landowner, before degrading the forest’s productivity, to sell the forest to someone who has the ethics to manage for long term sustainability.

High-graded acreage is a primary driver impeding movement toward sustained yield. Once a woodlot is high-graded, poor quality timber will occupy the site for generations before another harvest producing high-quality products can occur. In many cases, we are managing lands today that were high-graded decades ago. These lands are still far below their productive capacity and decades from being capable of sustainably producing sawlogs. We harvest the low-grade cordwood in an effort to improve their degraded condition and to supply markets with some fiber. Arguments that we should continue to accept unsustainable high-grading until we reach long-term sustainability are mystifying, at best.

Since at least 2005, the Society of American Forester’s position has been that an SAF forester’s obligation to the SAF Code of Ethics would be met as long as the forester explained the negative consequences of high-grading to the landowner. In short, foresters expect that as long as we explain the negatives, we are absolved of any responsibility for the adverse consequences. It is unlikely that the American Medical Association would accept such an approach. A better approach is found in the Forest Stewards Guild Principles, which state, in part: “When the management directives of clients or supervisors conflict with the Mission and Principles of the Guild [which preclude high-grading], and cannot be modified through dialogue and education, a forester or natural resource professional should disassociate.” The public will never regard forestry as a true profession until the “profession” takes a firm stand against any and all high-grading, and eliminates forester involvement with high-grading.

High-grading is never defensible and should always be harshly criticized by the forestry profession.

Dan is a consulting forester who manages Wolf River Forestry LLC in Shawano, Wisconsin.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Meeting Forested Riparian Buffer Goals in the Chesapeake Watershed

ANNAPOLIS, Md.--The Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry's Chesapeake Watershed Forestry office teamed with partners to hold a 2-day Riparian Forest Buffer Forum in Buckeystown, MD. The forum brought together approximately 100 Federal, State, and local stakeholders from the six-state region, to share strategies on how to attain the steep goals for riparian buffers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Topics included how buffers help meet other Chesapeake goals, buffer initiatives, partnering for outreach and implementation, and Farm Bill programs and policies.  Learn about forest buffers at the Chesapeake Bay Program web site and blog.

Forest buffers, or the trees, shrubs and other plants that grow along streams and rivers, are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Forest buffers prevent pollution from entering waterways, stabilize stream banks, provide critters with food and habitat, and keep streams cool during hot weather (to the benefit of sensitive aquatic species). Chesapeake Bay Program partners are working to restore 900 miles of forest buffers per year until 70 percent of all stream banks and shorelines in the watershed are buffered. Since 1996, a total of 8,152 miles of forest buffers have been planted along rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. While progress is being made to restore streamside trees and shrubs, it is slow: since 2009, plantings have declined almost every year.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spring: A Great Time to Scout for Invasive Plants

Bush honeysuckles leafing out in the spring
Drive down any country road or take a walk in your favorite woodlot and you'll probably find non-native plant species beginning to show themselves this spring. They have invaded our forests, stream corridors, meadows, and yes, even home landscapes. Have you ever walked your property and wondered why there seems to be plants that are taking over? There is a good chance some are exotic invasives.

Spring is a great time of year to scout for invasive plants. These invasive exotic plants tend to leaf out much earlier than our native plants. This allows you to effectively scout your property, identify what species you have, make note of locations, and plan how you will control it. For some it may be as easy as pulling it once you have it correctly identified. For others more complicated interventions may be required. 

Pulled bush honeysuckle
Your property may already be invaded by “exotic invasive” plants or you might have even accidentally planted some in your landscape that will soon escape and invade a nearby forest or stream corridor. As good stewards we need to become aware of the impact these non-native invasive species have on our local environment and learn to identify and properly control these species before they completely take over an area.

What is an “Exotic Invasive Plant”?
It is really just another name for a weed that was introduced from other countries and has escaped cultivation causing serious harm to habitats for native plants and wildlife. Before you start tearing out all your landscape plants, you must know that NOT all non-native plants are classified as invasive and there are some native plants that have a tendency to become invasive (for example hayscented and New York fern).  For a plant to be considered “invasive,” it typically grows aggressively (on various sites and growing conditions), spreads quickly (by seed, roots, or cuttings), lacks natural predators, pathogens and parasites, and displaces native plants.

Garlic Mustard flowers in the spring and is easily pulled.
So What Can Be Done to Prevent and Control “Exotic Invasives”?
    Become Educated and learn what invasive species look like. Contact your local Penn State Cooperative Extension office in your county and request information (fact sheets) about specific invasive species or drop off plant samples for identification.
    Don’t plant species that are considered invasive. Get a copy of plant listss that should not be planted.
    Discover native alternatives in your landscape. Promote responsible gardening by learning about the native plants around you.  Buy nursery propagated native plant material.  Never dig or buy plants that have been dug in the wild. 
    Remove or control invasive exotics plants from your landscape and replace them with native plants or non-invasive exotics. To properly control many invasive plants, some herbicide use may be required. Many can simply be pulled but for others pulling or cutting only encourage them to spread more.  The impact of leaving an exotic invasive to take over a site outweighs the use of herbicides to remove it.

Some Great Resources:

Article revised from "Has your property been “invaded”?" by Vincent Cotrone, September 2012.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New PA Conservation Explorer Allows Efficient Planning to Avoid Impacts on Threatened and Endangered Species

Leafy White Orchid

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently announced that the department and its partners are launching PA Conservation Explorer to assist businesses, local governments, and citizens with conservation planning, and improve the process for environmental reviews for threatened and endangered species that are required during permitting for construction and other earth disturbing activities.

“A government that works efficiently makes it easier to evaluate the impact that projects will have on our threatened and endangered species so they can be avoided through the planning and permitting processes,” Dunn said. “For the first time, species habitat information will be available online, and applicants can submit projects electronically, replacing a cumbersome process that required paper submissions to four different agencies.”

PA Conservation Explorer replaces the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory Environmental Review Tool (PNDI). The new tool provides conservation information for planning purposes on biological diversity, protected lands, streams, and other natural resources. It also allows users to screen a project area for potential impacts to threatened, endangered, and special concern species once they register.

In Pennsylvania, examples of threatened and endangered species include the blue spotted salamander; Indiana bat; piping plover; bog turtle; and the leafy white orchid. The tool does not list specific locations for species, but instead shows the species habitat.

Use of the Conservation Explorer as a planning tool can be done without charge. There is a $40 convenience charge per project to use PA Conservation Explorer and get documentation for the permitting process. Users without access to a computer or who do not wish to use the convenience option may submit their project for review directly to each of the four jurisdictional agencies at no charge.

Jurisdictional agencies are: DCNR - plants; Pennsylvania Game Commission - birds and mammals; Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission - fish, reptiles and amphibians; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - federally-listed species.

To learn more about Pennsylvania’s diversity of species and natural heritage and access PA Conservation Explorer visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Christina Novak, DCNR 717-772-9101