Saturday, December 26, 2020

Forests and Climate Truths

The global momentum behind the vision to plant a trillion trees is fueling expanded interest in forests as a climate change solution. This increased interest has brought increased scrutiny and numerous questions. Can forests capture enough carbon to make a meaningful contribution? Will we lose this stored carbon to wildfires? Does harvesting timber and forest management help or hurt our forest carbon sink? This article written by Jad Daley, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, presents five truths, grounded in science, that provide a common foundation for the public and decision-makers to shape America's policies on forests and climate change.

5 Truths about U.S. Forests for Climate

By Jad Daley, President & CEO of American Forests

The global momentum behind the vision to plant a trillion trees is fueling unprecedented interest in forests as a climate change solution. But this increased interest has brought increased scrutiny. Can forests capture enough carbon to make a meaningful contribution? Will we lose this stored carbon to wildfires? Does harvesting timber help or hurt our forest carbon sink?

  1. America’s forests are already providing a climate solution.
  2. Step one is to keep our existing forests as forests.
  3. Planting trees = more forests to capture carbon.
  4. Sometimes active forest management = more carbon gains.
  5. Wood products store carbon and reduce emissions from manufacturing.
To read the full story click here: American Forests

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Woods in Your Backyard

Penn State Extension webinar series will help landowners care for their woods

Do you have woods in your backyard? Penn State research estimates that nearly half a million Pennsylvanians own a small patch of woodland — something fewer than 10 acres in size. In fact, the majority of Pennsylvania landowners have fewer than 10 acres. These small patches add up to about a million acres, or about 10 percent of our state’s privately-held woodlands.

The “Woods in Your Backyard” webinar series teaches land stewardship through nine live, one-hour, online evening lectures that can be viewed on your home computer. Sessions run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights for nine weeks beginning Jan. 27. All lectures are recorded and can be viewed later if a live session is missed.

Sponsored by Penn State Extension and the Center for Private Forests, the University of Maryland Extension, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay: Forests for the Bay Program, the webinar series is designed specifically, but not exclusively, for small-acreage owners.

These small lots, whether wooded or not, can provide numerous benefits. By enhancing existing woodland or creating new natural areas on your property, you can enjoy wildlife, recreation, aesthetics, improved water quality and reduced energy costs. Owners of even the smallest landscapes can make a positive difference in their environment through planning and implementing simple stewardship practices.

The workshop series introduces the manual, “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.” All registrants will receive the full-color, 108-page publication, a $29 value. This self-directed book will guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources.

Topics covered in the webinars include the following:

·         “Why Backyard Woods are Important”

·         “Importance of Woods to Healthy Watersheds”

·         “Trees and Shrubs for Different Sites and Objectives”

·         “Providing and Enhancing Wildlife Habitat”

·         “Forest Ecology and Woodlot Management Techniques”

·         “Invasive Plant Identification and Control”

·         “Converting Open Land to Meadows and Woods”

·         “Healthy Woods: Common Insects and Diseases”

For more information and to register, visit the Penn State Extension website at or call 877-345-0691. The registration deadline is Jan. 20, 2021.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Storing and Sequestering Carbon: Pennsylvania’s Forest Resource

Imagine the Opportunity of a Smaller Carbon Footprint

At the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show the Hardwoods Development Council (HDC) hosted the Pennsylvania Hardwoods exhibit. The exhibit’s theme was Imagine the Opportunities of a Smaller Carbon Footprint. The exhibit was made possible by a collaboration between the HDC and the three Pennsylvania Hardwood Utilization Groups (HUGs): Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Keystone Wood Products Association, and the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.

The Hardwoods exhibit featured educational displays, all pertaining to how implementing sustainable forestry practices and the use of hardwood products can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. These articles will provide information pertaining to each of the themes that were displayed. This is the sixth, and final, in the series of articles.

Article 6: Storing and Sequestering Carbon: Pennsylvania’s Forest Resource 

By Jonathan Geyer and Dave Jackson

Let us start by taking a closer look at Pennsylvania’s forest resource. Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) program, 2019 data, Pennsylvania has more than 16.6 million acres of forest land and is 58% forested. From this data we also know that Pennsylvania has the largest hardwood forest volume of any state. The Commonwealth has historically provided about 10% of the nation’s supply of hardwood lumber and leads the U.S. in lumber exports.

In addition, the Commonwealth’s has 121.6 billion board feet of standing sawtimber volume. It has increased 7% since 2013, with an estimated 7,600 board feet per acre. Despite the increased mortality brought about by pest outbreaks, net growth has remained relatively stable, between 3.0 and 3.1 billion board feet per year. Timber harvests in Pennsylvania account for the removal of roughly 1-1.3 billion board feet in wood products annually. Considering growth, mortality, and harvesting (removals) Pennsylvania’s sawtimber volume is increasing by approximately 2 billion board feet annually!

To put into perspective what one billion board feet of wood looks like – one board foot is a piece of lumber 12 inches wide by 12 inches long and 1-inch thick – one billion board feet is a stack of lumber 2½-feet high by 5-feet wide, spanning from Harrisburg to Houston, Texas (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Pennsylvania’s forest products industry harvests between 1 and 1.3 billion board feet of wood volume annually.
Using FIA data, we can also research the history of Pennsylvania’s standing wood volume (Figure 2). This graph illustrates the standing sawtimber volume of Pennsylvania’s forests from 1955-2019. In just 64 years the Commonwealth wood volume has increased over 5 times! This is due to a variety of reasons, sustainable forest management practices, farmland conversion to forest, and our forest rebounding from the previous centuries’ land clearing and unsustainable harvesting practices. 

Figure 2: Since 1955, the sawtimber volume in Pennsylvania has increased more than five times all while harvests continued to remove approximately 1 billion board feet of lumber annually.

What does all this mean for carbon storage and sequestration in Pennsylvania’s forests? Forests both store carbon, in carbon pools, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon storage is the amount of carbon retained within the forest. Typically, carbon storage levels increase with forest age and peak in NE forests when they are greater than 200 years old.


Carbon sequestration on the other hand, is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere. Trees do this through photosynthesis. The rate at which forests sequester carbon changes over time. In NE forests carbon sequestration typically peaks when forests are around 30-70 years old. Forest-level sequestration rates generally decline with age, regardless of tree species or soil conditions.
Figure 3: In NE forests, carbon sequestration typically peaks when forests are around 30-70 years old.
The age of the forest not only influences the rate at which they sequester carbon but also the amount of carbon they store. A forest’s maximum rate of carbon sequestration happens when trees range in size from sapling, approximately 4 inches in diameter, through medium sawtimber, trees up to 16 inches in diameter. The maximum amount of carbon storage happens when trees are large sawtimber in size, greater than 18 inches in diameter. A forest composed of both young trees and old trees will have high rates of sequestration from the younger trees while maintaining the storage capacity and sequestration rates of the surviving older trees.

Maximizing carbon storage and sequestration is only part of the global carbon picture. To understand the full role forests play in the carbon cycle, one must consider both the amount of carbon stored in forest products and the amount of carbon saved when wood is used in place of more carbon-intensive materials, such as aluminum, plastic, steel and concrete. All carbon removed from the forest during a timber harvest is not immediately returned to the atmosphere. Approximately one-third of the forest products harvested in the NE United States are made into products with long life spans, such as furniture, flooring, and cabinets (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Approximately one-third of the forest products harvested in the NE United States are made into products with long life spans such as this red oak floor.

If we decide to continue using wood because it is the most environmentally friendly choice, but do not use wood harvested in Pennsylvania, then it must be imported from somewhere. If it comes from outside the state, it takes energy and carbon emissions to bring those wood products to our region. Using locally sourced wood not only increases the overall carbon sequestered, but also adds to the local economy.

It is important to understand the whole forest carbon story. This necessitates looking beyond the local level to both the regional and global scale and includes considering the role forest products play. The land-use decisions of Pennsylvania’s landowners will have a profound impact on our forests’ ability to sequester and store carbon and therefore the role they play in mitigating climate change. The greatest impact forest owners can have on carbon is to ensure their land remains a forest, i.e., keep forests as forests.

Reference: Forest Carbon:An Essential Natural Solution for Climate Change, By Paul Catanzaro, University of Massachusetts and Anthony D’Amato, The University of Vermont

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Timber Industry Update

I saw this in the Morning Ag Clips and thought I would share with my readers.  It was written by Andrew Muhammad, Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Tennessee.

American timber industry crippled by double whammy

Trade war, COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters all take their toll on the timber industry

PUBLISHED ON November 17, 2020

WASHINGTON — The forestry sector – landowners, logging companies and sawmills – have lost an estimated US$1.1 billion in 2020. Devastating wildfires and Hurricane Laura have played a part, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to significant losses. If workers are required to stay home, then no trees will be felled or logs sawed into lumber.

These losses have been exacerbated and amplified because of a longstanding trade war that has severely curbed the sale of U.S. forestry products to foreign markets, particularly China.

I am a professor of economics with a specialty in international agricultural trade, trade policy and global food demand. My work at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is informed by my nearly 10 years as a senior economist with USDA researching international trade issues affecting agriculture and forestry.

The US-China connection

Forest product exports in the U.S., including logs and lumber, were valued at $9.6 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forest products are the third leading U.S. agricultural export sector after soybeans and corn. In 2018, China accounted for nearly $3 billion of U.S. forest product exports.

The forest products relationship between China and the U.S. is complex. The U.S. sells logs and lumber to China; China uses the logs and lumber to produce finished wood products, such as furniture and hardwood flooring; and China exports these finished wood products to the world. Interestingly, the U.S. market is the leading destination for these exports. In 2018, U.S. imports of wooden furniture and other wood products from China exceeded $9 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This raises an obvious question: Why doesn’t the U.S. simply make furniture and flooring? The answer is wages. The wage differential between U.S. and Chinese workers makes it more profitable to sell logs and lumber to China and then buy back finished wood products.

Since the demand for products like logs and lumber is directly linked to the demand for finished wood products like furniture and flooring, any decline in the latter negatively affects U.S. forest product exports. To say that what happens in China does not necessarily stay in China is an understatement.

A vulnerable industry takes the hit

COVID-19 has caused a major disruption on U.S. forest exports and hindered production because of lockdowns, business closures and production stoppages. Many of these supply disruptions started in China, where lumber was being turned into furniture, chairs and other goods where the pandemic began.

However, another major factor has been the interruption of demand because of decreased incomes and delayed purchases by consumers. In the U.S., furniture sales decreased as much as 66% in April 2020 when stay-at-home orders went into effect. As of August of this year, U.S. imports of wood furniture and other wood products from China were down by nearly $2 billion, or 40%.

Consequently, U.S. forest product exports as of August 2020 had dropped by more than $670 million overall, with exports to China down by more than $100 million. Geographically, most of these losses are in the South, a loss of $246 million, followed by the West, with losses of $183 million, and the Northeast, with losses of $143 million. In addition, these substantial losses are compounded by a multiplier effect that go beyond the raw export numbers.

In my state of Tennessee, for instance, the forestry sector provided nearly 100,000 jobs and had an annual economic impact of more than $24 billion in 2017, accounting for nearly 3% of Tennessee’s economy. This, of course, was before the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. trade war, which has devastated the forestry sector. When considering the related activities associated with the forestry sector, such as trucking or equipment, total income and job losses are likely double the direct losses from export sales.

The economic fallout of the trade war

Prior to the pandemic, the U.S.-China trade war had already made the forestry sector vulnerable because of the tariffs that the Chinese government imposed on U.S. timber and the resulting loss in exports. The industry was in a crisis when COVID-19 hit.

In 2018, President Trump ordered that tariffs be imposed on Chinese imports, including a 10% tariff on furniture and related goods from China. In retaliation, the Chinese government imposed tariffs on many U.S. agricultural goods, including 25% tariffs on U.S. logs and lumber. This double taxation resulted in nearly halving the export to China – from $3 billion in 2018 to $1.6 billion in 2019. The trade war, compounded by COVID-19, has had a major negative effect on forest products export sales – from timber harvest and lumber production to timber exports – which hurts working people including loggers and mill workers. Sawmills, in particular, have taken a serious hit.

How is this related to the current pandemic? In January 2020, the U.S. and China signed the Phase One Trade Agreement. Based on the details of the agreement, timber and other forest product exports to China were expected to reach more than $4 billion in 2020. The fact that current export sales to China, as of August of 2020, were only $1 billion suggests that COVID-19 is having an even larger impact than the numbers reveal.

–Andrew Muhammad

Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics

University of Tennessee

Monday, November 2, 2020

Foresters, Loggers, and Trees


At the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show the Hardwoods Development Council (HDC) hosted the Pennsylvania Hardwoods exhibit. The exhibit’s theme was Imagine the Opportunities of a Smaller Carbon Footprint. The exhibit was made possible by a collaboration between the HDC and the three Pennsylvania Hardwood Utilization Groups (HUGs): Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Keystone Wood Products Association, and the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.

The Hardwoods exhibit featured seven educational displays, all pertaining to how implementing sustainable forestry practices and the use of hardwood products can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. This is the fourth in a series of seven articles. These articles will provide information pertaining to each of the seven themes that were displayed. One article will be provided monthly.

Article 5: Foresters, Loggers, and Trees

By Jonathan Geyer and Dave Jackson

The forest products industry begins in the forest with foresters and loggers. Foresters help forest landowners implement practices that lead to healthy, well-managed, sustainable forests. It is the Loggers job to harvest the trees the foresters indicated should be cut. Loggers are an essential link in helping to enhance the health of our forests, improve wildlife habitat, and provide the industry with raw material.

When foresters manage forests in a healthy, sustainable way, they sequester carbon, thus reducing air pollution. Photo by Jon Geyer

Pennsylvania’s professional timber harvesting workforce serves an essential role in ensuring the sustainability of our state’s forest resources. Each day they operate as the boots on the ground, carrying out critical management activities that supply our forest products industries with the raw material necessary to produce wood products. There is no other link in the wood fiber supply chain that has as much of a direct impact on the management of our state’s forests. As such, timber harvesters in Pennsylvania are vital stewards of our forestlands.

Since harvested wood can store carbon for hundreds of years in various products from furniture to flooring, logging, when done properly, enhances the health of our environment. Photo by Dave Jackson

The Commonwealth’s forest products industry has a $21.6 billion direct economic impact to the state’s economy. The industry has over 2,100 companies that employ more than 66,000 Pennsylvania’s. Of those, just under 3,000 are foresters and loggers. The industry depends on foresters and loggers to provide the wood resource that keeps the industry working.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation named for its forests. In Latin, Pennsylvania translates to “Penns Woods.” Roughly 740,000 Pennsylvanian’s own nearly 70% of the state’s forests. Photo by Dave Jackson

To help landowners make wise and informed decisions on how to manage their forests the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry has service foresters assigned to each county. Contact information for county service foresters can be found here. Besides service foresters, there are also private consulting foresters who work across the state. The Bureau of Forestry maintains a list of consulting foresters that can be found here. Penn State Extension is also a great resource for landowners, they provide various publications, trainings, webinars, and workshops on forest management. With the proper instruction, tools, and technical assistance, landowners can manage their land in ways that enhance the production of wood, wildlife, water, and recreation.

Forestry, Wood, and Baseball

Recently a friend of mine by the name of Steve Bratkovich published a book that deals with forestry, wood, and baseball. The book is entitled The Baseball Bat: From Trees to the Major Leagues, 19th Century to Today. It was quite a long and challenging process, but Steve was able to combine two topics that he loves, trees (wood) and baseball. He turned the manuscript in to the publisher 16 months ago and it finally hit-the-streets.

Check it out at or at Amazon   

Steve is donating all author royalties to charity, primarily Cerebellar ataxia research (which is the neurological disease the author has).

Thanks for your support. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Working Forests Work Video

A new educational video entitled "Working Forests Work" has just been completed and released. The project was spearheaded by the Keystone Wood Products Association and the PA Department of Agriculture's Hardwoods Development Council in collaboration with the Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, the Northern Tier Hardwood Association, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, and the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association along with several other state agencies as well as industry associations. Feel free to share this video on your social media. Spread the word that Wood is Good, and our only renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable natural resource.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Holistic Approach for Controlling Hemlock Woolly Adelgids

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids (Adelges tsugaeare an invasive insect that is causing widespread death and decline of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service have recently published a guide which synthesizes best management practices for controlling this destructive pest. The guide outlines a strategy using insecticides in combination with adelgid-eating insects. 

New Manager’s Guide for Controlling Hemlock Woolly Adelgids

Hope for the hemlocks

by Sarah Farmer, SRS Science Communications

Mature hemlock killed by HWA.
Photo by Dave Jackson

An Eastern hemlock can live for 800 years, anchoring ecosystems from its roots to its branches. But a bug that’s a speck by the eye can kill these giants in just a few

Foresters, entomologists, silviculturists, physiologists, and other experts have been working together to keep hemlock trees alive and reduce the impact of this devastating insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid.

A recent guide synthesizes years of research to provide best practices for controlling hemlock woolly adelgids. The guide is titled Integrating Chemical and Biological Control of theHemlock Woolly Adelgid: A Resource Manager’s Guide.

“The goal of the strategy is to prolong the health of some hemlock trees with insecticides, while, on other trees, establishing adelgid-eating insects,” says Bud Mayfield, USDA Forest Service researcher and lead author of the guide.

To read the rest of the article click here.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

October is firewood awareness month!

By Leigh Greenwood, The Nature Conservancy 

Each October, the Don’t Move Firewood campaign celebrates Firewood Month across the USA and Canada. In the warmer southern states, it’s the season for camping, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors after the heat of the summer has waned. In the cooler northern states and Canada, it’s a great time to think about stocking up on firewood for the winter ahead, planning for firewood needs during hunting season, and getting in those last crisp fall days of camping under the stars.

If you’re reading First Detector Report, you probably know that moving firewood long distances can spread invasive forest pests hidden in or on the wood. By focusing on this issue each October, the Don’t Move Firewood campaign works with many partners—like you!—to push outreach messages to the firewood using public. Both recreational firewood users (camping, RV’ers, hunters, and more), as well as folks that use firewood for home heating, need to know that their firewood choices matter—and they can help slow the spread of tree-killing pests.

The safest choices for firewood can vary according to where you plan to burn firewood, as well as where you live! Because of that, outreach specialists should list which of these safer choices work best for their region’s needs:

·         - Buy local firewood at or near where you’ll burn it.

·         - Buy certified heat-treated firewood when it is available.

·         - Gather firewood on site when permitted by the landowner or campground.

By working together, we all have the power to slow the spread of forest pests.Learn more about Firewood Month at

Target Pest Scouting Report

First Detector target pests are some of the most threatening plant pests and pathogens known to exist in the U.S. today. If you see symptoms or signs described here, use our reporting form to report.

In celebration of Firewood Month, we focus this scouting report on FD targets that are known to spread in or on firewood. Monitor the trees you care about for these signs and symptoms but remember—even if you do not see physical evidence of these pests in/on your firewood, they (or other invasive pests) can still be present. For this reason, always follow best firewood practices to minimize the spread of unwanted pests!

Lots of other nasty pests can be introduced to new locations through firewood, for a more comprehensive list visit the Don't Move Firewood invasive species page.

Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB)

On ALB host trees, monitor for adults, exit holes, and new (and/or old) oviposition sites. Egg sites vary in appearance depending on host and age. On cut branches or firewood, look for tunneling through the wood. ALB adults are large, measuring 1–1.5" in length. Photos and resources can be found at FD ALB page.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

Woodpecker activity may indicate insect presence, but not all woodpecker activity means you have a problem. Trees highly infested with EAB often have woodpecker damage, known as blonding, which may be easier to notice than other EAB signs and symptoms such as EAB D-shaped exit holes and woodpecker damaged exit holes.  Removing bark may reveal serpentine galleries etched on surface of wood. Find state specific quarantine information and regulations about firewood at EAB Univ. firewood.

European Gypsy Moth (EGM)

EGM females lay eggs on just about anything—not just host plants! EGM eggs are covered with fuzzy, buff-colored hairs from the female's abdomen. Scrape EGM egg masses into a container of soapy water and dispose the next day. See FD EGM page for more info, photos, and partner links.

Spotted Lanternfly (SLF)

SLF adults are present in the landscape until there is a hard frost. Females deposit eggs in vertical rows and cover them with a shiny putty-like substance. Appearance of covering changes with time and will start to look like dry mud. Exposed eggs look like seeds. SLF lay eggs on just about any plant and outdoor object! Learn more at FD SLF.

Reprinted from First Detector Report, a newsletter on invasive plant pests and pathogens. Issue 6, Fall 2020.

Friday, October 2, 2020

How Carbon Stacks Up

Imagine the Opportunity of a Smaller Carbon Footprint


At the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show the Hardwoods Development Council (HDC) hosted the Pennsylvania Hardwoods exhibit. The exhibit’s theme was Imagine the Opportunities of a Smaller Carbon Footprint. The exhibit was made possible by a collaboration between the HDC and the three Pennsylvania Hardwood Utilization Groups (HUGs): Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Keystone Wood Products Association, and the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.

The Hardwoods exhibit featured seven educational displays, all pertaining to how implementing sustainable forestry practices and the use of hardwood products can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. This is the fourth in a series of seven articles. These articles will provide information pertaining to each of the seven themes that were displayed. One article will be provided monthly.

Article 4: How Carbon Stacks Up

By Jonathan Geyer and Dave Jackson

Many people believe that after a forest is harvested the carbon sequestering capacity of that area is reduced. This is a narrow viewpoint and does not accurately depict how the forest carbon cycle works. When looking at the forest carbon cycle it is important to take a “broad” view. A broad view of the forest carbon cycle considers a larger geographical extent, a wider range of activities, and reflects a longer time scale.

When looking at the broad view we see a net decrease in carbon dioxide emissions through sustainable harvesting and the manufacturing of wood products. This is due in part to wood products storing carbon and a vigorously growing, young forests ability to sequester more carbon dioxide than an old growth forest. It is important to take a broad view of the carbon cycle to capture the net impacts of forest management activities (figure 1).

Figure 1: Sustainable forest management and the use of forest products increases carbon sequestration over time.

A major component of the forest carbon cycle is forest products. When a hardwood forest is sustainably harvested the wood in those trees are typically made into products such as furniture, flooring, and cabinetry. The carbon within those trees is usually stored in these products for many decades and possibly even centuries (figure 2).

Figure2: Wood products store carbon safely for many decades and possibly even centuries.

There are two types of forest products: long-lived forest products such as lumber for furniture and homes, which can store carbon for centuries, and short-lived forest products, like cardboard and paper, which may store carbon for only a few months or years. Even when short-lived forest products are disposed of, the carbon may still be captured in landfills for decades. The carbon stored in forest products is released only if the product is combusted or decomposes.

Figure 3 shows two antique wooden chairs, a live edge table, and a hardwood bicycle. These wood products are currently storing carbon and will continue to do so for many years. Using both long-lived and short-lived forest products helps to not only store carbon and reduce one’s carbon footprint, but also increases the demand for sustainably managed forests.

Figure 3: These wood products are currently storing carbon and will continue to do so for many years.

Another major component of the forest carbon cycle is wood product substitution. When wood products are chosen rather than using substitutes such as plastic, aluminum, concrete, etc. less carbon is emitted into the atmosphere and more carbon is sequestered (figure 4). Manufacturing of substitute faux wood products can emit up to 137X more carbon than using real wood. Wood is the greenest building material!

Figure 4: Choosing wood products over other substitutes helps reduce carbon emissions and increases carbon storage.
Trees store carbon from the atmosphere in their wood, a process called carbon sequestration. When that wood is turned into a product like a chair, table, or framing for a house, the carbon stored in the wood cannot be released to become carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. On the other hand, manufacturing goods from plastics, metals, concrete, and glass releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using wood from sustainably managed forests is a good choice for the environment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Call for Support / Transgenic Chestnut

I thought it important to share this with my readers.

Many of you are probably at least vaguely aware of the expectation that American chestnut will be saved from virtual extinction by the work of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), a program of backcross breeding to introduce Chinese alleles for blight resistance into the genome of the American chestmut (Castanea dentata). 

This work began in 1983 and followed 60 years of failed breeding efforts by USDA and others. TACF became the “little engine that could,” a small non-profit that has managed to leverage tens of millions of dollars in philanthropy, volunteer labor, scientific collaborations, and state and federal funding toward a goal that had been abandoned as impractical by the 1970s.

Saving American chestnut has always been a goal with wide public appeal – rescuing a cherished element of our natural and cultural history that went missing a century ago. This inspirational goal, combined with confidence that TACF’s science-based program of R&D will succeed, is the leverage that sustains support for the work of the organization. It’s a fragile arrangement, like many worthwhile things, and before success is achieved it will have to be sustained by 50+ years of confidence and enthusiasm from people who themselves may never see the goal realized.

Progress with the breeding program is slower than expected because there are more genes involved in Chinese resistance than originally believed. This work will continue, but attention has broadened to include a transgenic American chestnut created by Bill Powell and Chuck Maynard at SUNY-ESF, the culmination of 30 years of difficult work supported by the NY Chapter of TACF. With legal guidance provided by TACF, SUNY-ESF has applied to USDA-APHIS for permission to use the transgenic tree in restoring American chestnut.

The public comment period on the application to USDA-APHIS ends October 19, and I urge my readers to submit a comment. Commentary from both lay persons and scientists is an important consideration in the approval process.

Here are links to the pertinent information:

1.       The Transgenic American Chestnut Tree FAQ’s

2.       Using Science to Save the American Chestnut Tree

3.       Federal Register: Petition for Determination

This single-gene addition to American chestnut is an ecologically safe modification, and there is no commercial interest in obtaining USDA-APHIS approval for use. This is purely a conservation effort for the best of purposes, to restore a keystone species to its original habitat.

If the application is approved, followed by approvals from EPA and FDA, then many more years will be required to move the gene into diverse, regionally adapted populations for restoration. While that is underway, the original breeding program will continue, and TACF will pursue efforts to identify Chinese resistance genes that could be used for cisgenic transformations.

The rescue of American chestnut is a marathon, and SUNY’s transgenic is simply one more step and not necessarily a complete solution. But for reasons both technical and otherwise, I believe that approval of the transgenic is likely to be critical to the success of TACF’s mission. Moreover, if anti-science arguments can prevent this innocuous application of genetic engineering, then the future is grim not only for American chestnut but also for many other plant species under assault by introduced diseases and insects. When a plant has essentially no native resistance to an introduced pest, then genetic modification can well be the only means of saving it.

Kim C. Steiner | Professor of Forest Biology, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and Director, The Arboretum at Penn State

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Forest Inventory and Analysis

State-by-State Forest Fact Sheets

The USDA Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program continually produces vast amounts of data on the extent, conditions, trends, and ownership status of the forest resources of the United States. The program supplies annual updates that provide a brief overview of forest resources in each state based on an inventory conducted by the FIA program in cooperation with each State forestry agency. Now you can easily access some of this information through an interactive website that offers fact Sheets for each state.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What is a Carbon Neutral Fuel?


At the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show the Hardwoods Development Council (HDC) hosted the Pennsylvania Hardwoods exhibit. The exhibit’s theme was Imagine the Opportunities of a Smaller Carbon Footprint. The exhibit was made possible by a collaboration between the HDC and the three Pennsylvania Hardwood Utilization Groups (HUGs): Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Keystone Wood Products Association, and the Northern Tier Hardwood Association.

The Hardwoods exhibit featured seven educational displays, all pertaining to how implementing sustainable forestry practices and the use of hardwood products can help reduce one’s carbon footprint. This is the third in a series of seven articles. These articles will provide information pertaining to each of the seven themes that were displayed. One article will be provided monthly.

Article 3: What is a Carbon Neutral Fuel?

By Jonathan Geyer and Dave Jackson

A carbon neutral fuel is one that does not increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) cycling through the atmosphere. For example, burning wood is considered carbon neutral. When burned, it does not increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is because the forest carbon cycle is a closed loop system (Figure 1). As trees grow, they photosynthesize, taking in carbon dioxide, converting the carbon into woody biomass and releasing the oxygen. Removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it is known as carbon sequestration. The carbon stored in wood is released back into the atmosphere when the wood is combusted. However, new carbon is sequestered by other trees as they grow, and the cycle continues.

Figure 1: When wood is combusted, carbon is released as carbon dioxide. It is then sequestered again by other trees as they grow.

Wood-based fuel like firewood and wood pellets release a minimal amount of carbon into the atmosphere compared to coal, oil, and natural gas. When fossil fuels are combusted enormous volumes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere, more than what trees can sequester. Fossil fuel combustion leads to large increases in the amount CO2 cycling through the atmosphere (Figure 2). Trees need CO2 to make food, however, too much CO2 in the atmosphere can lead to what we now call global climate change.

Figure 2: In 2018, power plants that burned coal, natural gas, and petroleum fuels were the source of about 63% of total U.S. electricity generation, but they accounted for 99% of U.S. electricity-related CO2 emissions. Electricity generation from biomass, hydro, solar, and wind are virtually carbon neutral. (Source: U.S. Energy Administration)

Trees are a renewable natural resource which means they will naturally regrow or be replaced within a person’s lifespan. For many years Pennsylvania’s forests have been growing more wood volume than is being harvested. A sustainably managed hardwood forest in Pennsylvania can be completely harvested and replaced on average every 80 years. At the opposite end of the spectrum are fossil fuels, such as coal, gas, and oil. They are nonrenewable natural resources. They cannot be readily replaced and will eventually be completely used up.

Carbon neutral fuels, like firewood and wood pellets, neither contribute to nor reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Using carbon neutral fuels can help prevent this from happening. The carbon released from burning firewood or pellets is absorbed by the subsequent crop of new trees, which will grow to be the next source of carbon-neutral fuel……and the cycle continues.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Announcing New Invasive Plant Fact Sheets Series

BELLEFONTE, Pa. – With recent efforts to combat the threat of invasive plants in woodlands, Penn State Extension has released new resources to help with identification and control. A total of 14 invasive plant fact sheets are now up on the Penn State Extension web site. Art Gover, Penn State Wildland Weed Management Specialist, David Jackson, and Sarah Wurzbacher both Penn State Forest Resources Educators, and Sky Templeton, graduate of the Penn State Forest Biology program prepared the fact sheet.

The term “invasive” is used to describe a plant which grows rapidly, spreads aggressively, and displaces other native plants. They are non-native to the area but have naturalized and negatively affect the ecosystem they inhabit. Invasive plants degrade native environments by causing a decline in native plant species diversity. They degrade wildlife habitats for native insects, birds, and other wildlife and threaten rare species. In addition, invasive plants have been shown to inhibit forest regeneration success and slow or halt natural succession. Once well established, invasive plants require large amounts of time, labor, and money to control or eradicate.

Each four-page fact sheet provides in-depth practical information to help landowners and natural resource professionals identify and treat invasive plants commonly found in fields, forests, and other natural areas. The fact sheets provide full-color images and descriptions to assist with identification, as well as information on native look-alikes, dispersal, site, and control, including a management calendar and treatment and timing table.

Species described in the series include tree-of-heaven, Callery pear, common and glossy buckthorn, Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, shrub honeysuckles, autumn olive, privet, burning bush, Oriental bittersweet, Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute vine, Japanese stiltgrass, and garlic mustard. Jackson states, “It is our hope that once landowners and managers learn to identify these common invasive plants, they will begin to implement control measures to help prevent further spread and habitat degradation.”

These fact sheets will help you properly identify many of the most problematic woodland invasive plants. They can all be found by typing the plant name in the search bar on the Penn State Extension web site. Each is available as a free downloadable PDF; printed copies are available for purchase. Visit: 

Friday, July 31, 2020

New Carbon Program for Pennsylvania Landowners is Expanding!

Have you heard about the new opportunity for landowners to receive funding and expert assistance to help you keep your woods healthy?  The Family Forest Carbon Program pays woodland owners like you to carry out specific activities on your land that enhance wildlife habitat and water quality, while also increasing the carbon stored on the landscape.  Visit to learn more about the program and check your eligibility.  The program is expanding and is now available in 16 counties in Northern and Central Pennsylvania:

The Family Forest Carbon Program, developed in partnership between the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, aims to support landowners in forest stewardship by providing funding to complete activities that improve overall woodland health.  Currently funding is provided for two different activities:

·    1. Letting your trees grow large for 20 years by limiting timber harvests.

·    2. Funding to remove invasive or other competing plants after a regeneration harvest.

Meet Susan, a landowner from Pennsylvania, and hear her story about her family’s land and the challenges she faces to caring for it. Families and individuals like Susan, own the largest portion of forests in the U.S. and provide a significant opportunity to reduce the carbon in our atmosphere through their forests. While these forest owners want to help the environment, they often face barriers when it comes to caring for their land.

The Family Forest Carbon Program, a new program from the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy – by providing landowners a way to generate income from their land, while helping to address climate change through carbon sequestration.

Watch her video here: 

To find out if you are eligible, visit the Family Forest Carbon Program at  You can use the secure, online tool called WoodsCamp to find your parcel on a map and the request a report to learn more about the opportunities for which you may qualify, including the Family Forest Carbon Program. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Maintaining Forest Boundary Lines

Painted blaze along boundary line. Photo by D. Jackson

Boundary line maintenance is one of the most important aspects of land ownership. It is your responsibility as the landowner to know where the boundaries to your property are located. Most forest landowners have a general idea where their lines are and have accurately surveyed maps, but few have their lines clearly marked and painted on the ground.

Well-marked boundaries can protect you from timber theft and help ensure other assets are protected. They also help you avoid trespassing on your neighbors when cutting trees or building roads and trails. When selling timber or performing other management activities it is important to know exactly where the boundary line is to avoid damage or disturbance to neighboring properties. 

Only a licensed land surveyor can establish a property boundary. However, if you have a good modern survey description, you may be able to locate the property lines based on evidence and marking left behind from previous surveys. If your boundary lines cannot be located, you will have to contact a reputable surveyor. For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume you have an accurate modern survey and the lines and corners have been previously marked or “blazed” by a surveyor. 

Once located, the boundary line should be marked using a combination of flagging and paint. Paint is preferred since it is the most durable, lasting more than 5 years, and cannot be torn down or moved. Plastic flagging is generally used to temporarily locate boundary lines but should be followed by more permanent blazing and painting trees along and near the line. Use a bright, (white, blue, red, or orange show up well) durable, brush-on paint. Many commercial brands of boundary marking paint are available. Choose your preferred color. Removing any loose bark before applying will allow the markings to last longer.

3 blaze marks on corner witness tree. Photo D. Jackson
In the field, locate all corners or monuments and mark them as well. Corners should also be identified by “witness” trees. The marks on witness trees face or point to the corner. Surveyors make hacks or chop marks on witness trees in three parallel lines about equal distance apart that face the actual corner marker. Be sure to paint over the scars that remain from the axe chops. A combination of paint and hack mark scars ensure long term visibility of corner markings. 

Line sections between corners can be long, where one corner is not visible from the first. Therefore, it is important to mark trees along the line as well. You may need to install posts along sections of lines with only small trees or no trees to make the location more obvious. Trees marking a line are designed with side-line chops or blazes made by the surveyor. Blazes are typically 5-6” long, 3-4” wide, and 4 to 5 feet above the ground. All old survey blazes need to be located and painted so they are visible. Paint both the blazed callous tissue surface as well as 2-3” of bark surrounding the blaze.

Blaze marks made along a line face the actual line and are made in a way to visualize the exact placement of the property border. When trees are located directly in the path of the line, two blaze marks will be on the tree, one on the side the line enters and another on the opposite side where the line exits. Survey markings can occur at different intervals along a line. When painting your line, it is a good idea to mark trees close enough so that from any mark you can see the next in either direction, the exact distance will vary with terrain and vegetation density.

Finding and marking your boundary lines with paint can be enjoyable and helpful. The best time of year to do this is when the leaves are off the trees. Once located, it is best to re-paint every 5-7 years to keep the marks fresh and easy to locate. Marked property lines are a sign of good forest management. They protect you from trespass, make forest management activities possible, and reduce the potential for accidental timber theft from neighbors. To view a short video on boundary line marking you can watch a Penn State Extension video here.