Thursday, April 30, 2020

10 Things to do for Your Woods While Social Distancing

Modified from the American Tree Farm System/Woods Camp – April 24, 2020
1. Walk your Property….. with your Goals and Objectives in Mind
Take this time to thoroughly walk your property while thinking about what you would like to see happen with your land in 5, 10, or 25 years, and begin to mentally map out the next steps. You might be surprised to discover that what you want from your land has changed. Life circumstances can impact how you see your land, and what you hope to get out of it.
2. Perform General Upkeep & Repairs
While you’re on your property, note and look for work that needs to be done. This could include:
·         Repairs to things like fences or clearing out ditches and culverts.
·         Upkeep/maintenance on past practices such as tree planting projects
·         Refresh property line marking/blazes and replace signage and markers
·         Maintain walking trails and roads where they may be beginning to erode
Do what you can to maintain your woodland while practicing safe social distancing. This may mean waiting until you can get help from others and/or a forestry professional to complete the work but taking inventory and creating a plan will get you one step closer to completing these tasks.

3. Contact Your Local Forester to get Questions Answered
Due to the current health risk, local forestry professionals are spending more time in their offices than ever. This is a great opportunity to give them a call—they will be happy to answer your questions and help in any way they can. Visits by a forester can still take place if there is access to property and if the landowner is comfortable not being present.

4. Tune into Online Workshops and Trainings
As the timeline for social distancing continues to grow, many organizations are opting to move in-person events to an online format. This means participating in events that would otherwise have been too far away to attend in person! Look for online courses and webinars that can help you learn something new about your land!

5. Plan Your Estate
In uncertain times, many start to think about the “what if’s” in life. What you want to happen to your land when you’re gone is an important question to answer for yourself and your family. You may want to sell your woodland, donate all or part of it, divide it among heirs, etc.

Many landowners intend to pass down their land to children or other family members with hopes that it will remain in the family for decades to come. While this option may seem like a simple one, there are still many things to consider to make sure your heirs can keep the land and still have the means to cover the estate taxes.

6. Review Tax Guidelines
Looking for a bit of light reading? This is an excellent opportunity to make sure you are prepared for any timber sales you see in your future. Do some online research to better understand the tax guidelines around timber sales and other forest management activities you may be planning.

7. Get a Management Plan or Update an Existing One
Now is a great time to get started on a written management plan by talking to your local forester about your goals. They can point you in the direction of resources such as cost-share opportunities for you to investigate while waiting for an on-site visit. If you have a written management plan that needs updating, contact your forester to discuss making changes to your plan. Some changes may have to wait for an on-site visit, but in the meantime, they can suggest ideas to consider and share educational resources.

8. Look into Stewardship Programs
Many of us are finding ourselves in front of a screen more than usual these days. While you’re online, here are some great online resources for identifying programs and opportunities to talk to your forester about:
·         American Tree Farm System (ATFS)
·         Forest Stewardship Program (FSP)
·         Cost-share programs you might qualify for
If you’re already a certified Tree Farm and looking to re-certify, give your forester a call to see how they might be able to help.

9. Learn to Identify and Control Invasives
Learning to identify and control invasive species on your land is a great management activity you can do on your own. Online tools like Bugwood Apps are available to help you with this. You can also do a Google search of invasive species in your area before heading out and take photos of anything you’re unsure about to send to your forester or research later.

10. Enjoy your Property!
This recommendation goes without saying—use this opportunity to spend more time enjoying the beauty and fresh air your land provides!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Control Forest Pests by Becoming a Certified Pesticide Applicator

You want to become a certified pesticide applicator to control forest pests like invasive insects and plants but don’t know where to start. The first step is to purchase the study manuals and STUDY! You will need to take and pass two “closed book” exams, the CORE and the Forest Pest Control category. The study manuals will help you prepare, as the exam questions are taken directly from them.

Carefully read through each chapter and take notes or highlight important sections. Both manuals list chapter-specific learning objectives. These are the main concepts that will be on the exam. The Forest Pest Control manual also includes chapter-specific “key terms” and a glossary where each is defined. These should be studied thoroughly. In addition, each chapter includes sample test questions for you to practice. Penn State Extension provides the study materials which can be ordered by calling 1-877-345-0691 or going to the web sites provided below.
·         Commercial-Public Applicator Packet (CORE):

·         Forest Pest Control Certification Study Materials:

Once you have completed studying the material, you need to register to take the exams. This is done through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s (PDA) PaPlants website at From there, highlight Pesticide Programs (on the left) and then click Certification Exam Locations. To find a nearby location, you can search by PDA regions or select a county, not all counties offer exams.

Then click Search to see the list of available dates and locations. Click on Details in the first column to see additional information and to Register. Once registered, you will pay to take the exams at the testing location on the day of. The cost of the exams is $50 for CORE and $10 for Category and must be paid via check (some regions accept a money order). You are provided three hours to take the Core and/or Category exams. Even If you do not finish an exam it must be turned in to be scored.

Each exam has 50 multiple choice questions, a 70 percent is needed to pass. If you do not reach a 70 percent, you can retake the exam at another time by going through the registration process again and paying the exam fee. Keep in mind, both exams are closed book so no study materials can be brought into testing locations.

Is computer-based testing available?
You now have the option to take one or both exams via computer-based testing, with the test results being provided immediately upon completion. However, this method is more costly, $110 for CORE and $70 for Category, and is only available in a limited number of locations: Bloomsburg, Blue Bell, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richboro, Scranton, and Shippensburg. Also, you are only given one hour to complete each exam. These exam options are listed at:

Do I need a pesticide application business license to apply pesticides?
You may only apply pesticides by working for a commercial business or public entity that has a pesticide application business license. In addition, your certification only allows you to make applications and perform other responsibilities of a certified applicator under the category in which you are certified and only for the company or public entity your employed by.

A commercial or public applicator becomes certified once they have passed both the CORE and category exams. It is important to note that both exams must be taken and passed within 12 months of each other. After earning your initial certification, you can take other category exams at any time after that.

A unique pesticide certification number is assigned to you once you register and pass the first certification exam. Upon passing both exams within the required time frame, your certification number is provided to your employer. They must notify PDA to assign your certification number to their business license. Commercial applicators must pay $40 to renew their certification annually each September. Public applicators pay $10 every three years to renew their certification.

What if I’m not employed at the time of initial certification?
If you are not employed at the time of initial certification, your certification is placed into escrow. This maintains your certification as long as you pay the renewal fees and earn the appropriate recertification credits. Once employed, your employer must notify PDA to take your certification out of escrow and assign it to their business license. Only under employment by a Pennsylvania licensed pesticide application business can you make pesticide applications and perform the other responsibilities of a certified pesticide applicator.

How do I maintain my certification?
All commercial and public applicators must obtain recertification credits approved by PDA to maintain their certification. Six CORE credits and eight Category 05, Forest Pest Control, credits are needed every three years (2 credits = 1 hour of training). All approved recertification credit offerings can be found on the PDA PaPlants website provided previously, select Pesticide Programs and then click on Recertification Course Locator.

Regardless of what month you initially became certified, September 30th is the end of the first year of certification. At that point you have two additional years to earn the required number of recertification credits. You are unable to carry extra recertification credits from one three-year cycle to the next.

If the required number of CORE recertification credits is not obtained in the three-year time frame, you cannot renew your certification or make pesticide applications as a certified applicator. If you fail to obtain the required number of category recertification credits, your certification for that category is considered expired and you cannot apply pesticides as a certified applicator for that category until the required number of credits are obtained.
You are provided a one-year grace period to earn the necessary credits. If the required number of credits are not obtained within that year, you will be required to retest to reinstate your certification.

For additional information:
We hope this answers your questions about becoming a forest pest control pesticide applicator. For more information, see:

Friday, April 17, 2020

Big Changes for the 2020-2021 Pennsylvania Deer Season

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met in early April to make decision concerning the upcoming hunting seasons and bag limits.The meeting was the first ever “virtual” meeting. A number of changes were accepted concerning the deer season that are important to be aware of.  I summarized them below.

Deer Season Highlights of Changes
·         Antlerless allocation increased from 903,000 allocated in 2019-20 to 932,000 in 2020-21.  
·         Retained the Saturday rifle deer opener
·         Hunting opportunities on three Sundays
  o   Sunday, Nov. 15 - archery deer hunting
  o   Sunday, Nov. 22 - bear hunting during the bear firearms season
  o   Sunday, Nov. 29 - deer hunting during the firearms deer season
·         Adopted a 14-day concurrent rifle deer season for antlered and antlerless deer in 10 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) - 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5A, 5C and 5D
  o   3 units (2B, 5C and 5D) were already concurrent seasons – urbanized areas
  o   7 Units (2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5A) - Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Disease Management Areas (DMAs) - provides hunters an additional five days of antlerless deer season. (Click here for map of the WMUs)
  o   Antlerless allocations in WMUs with concurrent seasons are lower than they would have been if a split-season had been approved
  o   Retained a split-season in the remaining 13 WMUs
·         Extended the statewide archery deer season to end Nov. 20 - giving bowhunters the opportunity to take advantage of peak and post-rut activity
·         The board retained the antler restrictions

DMAP Permits Per Property
·         Hunters are allowed to purchase up to 4 DMAP permits per property (had been limited to purchasing just two DMAP permits per DMAP property in the past)
  o   Exceptions - state forest lands and certain large tracts of private lands

Mentored Youth Program
·         Mentored hunters ages 7 and older now can apply for their own antlerless deer licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits

Deer Tagging Requirements
·         Hunters possessing multiple tags may fill them without first tagging a harvested deer - lifting the restriction benefits deer hunters with multiple tags, who no longer are forced to pass up opportunities to harvest additional deer.

Upcoming Issues:
·         Commissioner Kristen Schnepp-Giger asked the agency’s Bureau of Wildlife Management to study the implications of removing antler restrictions in at least some areas where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been detected in free-ranging deer.
·         Agency’s new CWD Response Plan, a revised draft of which is available for public review and comment until May 7.

For the full list of changes click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Initiative to Convert Lawns to Meadows and Forests

This story appeared in a recent edition of the Bay Journal. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with an initiative whos goal is to convert 10,000 acres of lawn to natural areas. If successful, this could have a tremendous impact on our environment (reduced air pollution and improved wildlife habitat) and the water quality of our state’s streams. Here are a few Penn State Extension resources that may be helpful in this endeavor.

Landscaping for Wildlife: Trees, Shrubs, and Vines
Neighborly Natural Landscaping in Residential Areas

By Ad Crable
April 8, 2020
Photo by Ryan Davis
Well-shorn lawns are still the norm on the grounds of parks, schools, churches, hospitals, business parks and neighborhoods. While better than exposed bare earth, such swaths of green are still environmental minefields.

Rain flushes dog poop, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals from those grassy surfaces into local streams. The springtime spreading of fertilizer to keep grass thick and green is a troublesome source of nutrients that are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay.

Close-cropped grass grows from compacted dirt that doesn’t soak up much stormwater. The short, monoculture grass has no wildlife value. The army of lawnmowers needed to keep the grass cut to socially acceptable length emits air pollution at three times the rate of automobiles.
And keeping everything a tidy green eats up mowing dollars that could be better spent on the missions of churches, schools and the like.
“It’s kind of tyrannical. Lawns control us more than we control them,” said Ryan Davis of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “One of the most insidious parts of a lawn is it doesn’t do anything. It’s just sterile and sitting there.”
Pennsylvania has come to the same conclusion, launching a campaign to convert 10,000 acres of mowed grass by 2025 into meadows or forests in parts of the state that are in the Chesapeake drainage. There are an estimated 1 million acres of lawn in Pennsylvania’s portion of the Susquehanna River watershed alone.
The lawn conversion initiative, also known as conservation landscaping, is contained in Pennsylvania’s latest official plan for helping to clean up the Chesapeake. It’s the first time that lawn conversion has been included as a Bay cleanup strategy for Pennsylvania, and a priority one at that. The project will count toward the state’s nutrient reduction commitments.
The plan seeks to reduce stormwater runoff which, according to the state-federal Bay Program, is the only source of pollution on the rise. The goal is to convert half of the 10,000 acres into meadows and half into forests.
The first focused project to move that charge forward has already begun with a swirl of interest.
To read the rest of the story click here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Socially Distant, but Naturally Near

University Park, PA – March 25, 2020 – Uncertainty is a thing we spend most of our days avoiding. But today, this is different. Uncertainty has stepped forward and has asked us to see it, as the respiratory disease COVID-19 has rapidly evolved into a pandemic. The stability and certainty of our daily lives is impacted. Government and medical officials stress to us, “Stay home, distance yourself from others around you, and do not gather with others at this time.” What does this mean and what do we do? Do we now have to huddle inside, in front of the news, with uncertainty settling in beside us?

Pause there, put some cookies in a lunch bag, and let’s go outside. At this moment in time, as you place distance between yourself and the social world, take this opportunity to move into the natural one. Even as school are closed, work is changed, and socializing is paused, spring is still budding, the weather is still warming, and there is an abundance of learning, productivity, and fellowship that can still safely and fruitfully occur in the woods! Go grab your boots as we share with you all the ways you can use this time to care for yourself and your woods.

If you are a lover of the wild things, grab a few field guides on birds and wildflowers and see what you can find! Spring woodland plants will soon be on full display, and some may even be beginning to appear now. Look for trout lily’s brown, mottled leaves or the brownish-purple shell of skunk cabbage. Even edible plants, like wild ramps, are beginning to appear and can make for a fun cooking project!

If you don’t own woods, but love spending time on public lands, you can still access trails at state parks and state forests, even as the facilities there are closed to the public – make sure you practice good social distancing and trail etiquette, avoiding crowds and ensuring room to pass when you encounter other hikers. Take this time to learn with your children or grandchildren, making dry leaf collections or practicing tree identification using buds and nuts. Virtual opportunities abound to compare discoveries when you can’t be face-to-face.

If you are a woodland owner, consider using this time to create and evaluate management goals. If you have a forest management plan, read through it to ensure it is up to date with documentation of your previous activities. Take the time to plan and organize the actions you wish to take this year. If you don’t have a written plan, email your forester and discuss the possibility of developing one in the coming months.

While the sun is down or the rain is falling, dive into the PA Forests Web Seminar Center to do some online learning about forest management activities and even have some of your questions answered. Walk your trails and assess their quality – are they intact or are they being eroded, and do you have a plan to correct this? Walk along your streams and consider the possibility of planting a buffer of trees to improve the quality of the water.

As the weather warms, invasive species like honeysuckle and Japanese barberry are beginning to break bud and display new leaves. Walk your woods and identify what invasive plants you have and where they are located. Devise a plan of action to manage them this year, such as cutting or herbicide treatments.

In your downtime at home, reflect upon your goals for your land after your gone and contemplate how those can be solidified in an estate forest legacy plan. Use ArcGIS to create a Story Map, a virtual tour of your woodlands, to demonstrate the hard work you have done.

Write articles for your local newspaper or your organization’s newsletter about how you are spending this time with the forest. Use social media to share your passion about caring for woodlands and why it is so important to be a good steward. Call your neighbor or send them an email to ask how they are spending quarantined days and suggest some woodland activities for them too.

At the Penn State Center for Private Forests, we and our partners care about ensuring that you have the resources you need to learn about woodlands, to practice good management, and to enjoy the solace that being in the woods provides. Therefore, at the bottom of this article we provide a directory to link you with tools to help you maximize your time during the quarantine.

We also collaborated to provide fun and easily accessible informational content for learning on our social media platforms. Follow the Center for Private Forests and Penn State Extension Renewable Natural Resources Team on Facebook to take part in April conversations around these practices and activities. Rest assured, you are practicing social distancing as you draw near to the natural world and the shadow of Uncertainty will disappear behind you as you enter the woods in springtime.

By Abby Jamison
M.S. Student, Forest Resources and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment, Center for Private Forests at Penn State

Resources for You
For Learning

Forest Management Activities

Forest Stewardship Outreach