Written by Sandford Smith, Teaching Professor of Forest Resources and Extension Specialist, Pen State University and Dave Jackson, Forestry Educator, Penn State Extension
BELLEFONTE, PA – This article will try to dispel some of the more common myths and misperceptions about forests and forestry in Pennsylvania. Let us begin by defining what a “forest” is. A forest is an area of land characterized by extensive tree cover and other associated resources such as meadows, streams, and wildlife. We often use other names to describe forested land including woods, woodland, and woodlot. In fact, Pennsylvania means “Penn’s Woods” after Quaker William Penn and “Sylvania” meaning woodland.
Most of the forest land in Pennsylvania is owned by the government. Pennsylvania's dominant land use is forest, covering nearly 16.5 million acres, or 59%, of the state. Private non-industrial landowners own 70% of the forestland in the state, the government only 22%. Nearly 12 million acres are held by private owners, estimated to be over 740,000 if we include those with 1 acre or more of woodland.
A Hands-off approach to forest management is best. Let “mother nature” take its course. Unfortunately, “Mother Nature” does not exist and the natural ecology of our forests has been so greatly altered by human activity and other disturbances that an active approach is often much better. Most of our forests have been cut-over several times, burned, impacted by deer over-browsing, overrun by invasive plants, and infested by non-native insects and diseases. Leaving them alone will often make these problems only get worse. There are many wise management practices that can help bring a forest into a healthy, more natural, and productive state. Forest conservation needs effective “hands-on” management.
I hope this article has been useful to clear up some common myths and misperceptions about Pennsylvania’s forests and forestry. For additional information about forestry visit the Penn State Extension web site at: https://extension.psu.edu/forests-and-wildlife/forest-management