As environmental disasters surge across the country, state officials continue to push for environmental conservation. On Aug. 24, Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled a State Forest Action Plan, which assesses the condition of Pennsylvania forests and sets a framework for strategies of long-term forest sustainability in the Commonwealth.
"Since the founding of our Commonwealth, 'Penn's Woods,' our forests have been critical natural resources that we must continue to preserve, maintain and grow," said Gov. Tom Wolf. "The State Forest Action Plan provides a wealth of strategies to ensure that our forests continue to thrive for future generations of Pennsylvanians."
The 681-page plan highlights current conditions and trends of forests, delineates priority landscapes, and provides a suite of broad strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of Pennsylvania’s forests and trees.
In addition to making recommendations for all public and private forests in Pennsylvania, the plan also includes stakeholders and partners to help ensure a shared vision and coordinated efforts. Partnerships often include policymakers, agencies, landowners, forest industry workers, natural resource professionals, conservation organizations, and community leaders.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that we are good stewards of our forests and the natural resources within them,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
“This plan will help protect and maintain diverse ecosystems in the Commonwealth, help provide guidance in the fight against climate change, help the department carefully manage our energy resources to minimize and mitigate negative impacts, and address important areas of need in our forests. I am grateful to Bureau of Forestry staff for developing this comprehensive plan to protect the future of our forests.”
The plan details the following climate change threats to the PA forest ecosystem:
Warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons may benefit invasive species
Changing conditions may exacerbate existing stressors
Increased intensity and frequency of natural disturbances (drought, wind, ice storms, fires, floods, etc.)
Changing weather patterns and increased extreme weather events
Habitat becoming unsuitable, especially for species near edge of their range and other vulnerable populations
Forests cover more than 60 percent of Pennsylvania’s land and provide an array of values including clean air and water, recreation opportunities, wood products, habitat for plants and animals, and carbon storage.
Revisions of prior conservation plans are an effective way to address climate change effects on the ecosystem. The Forest Action Plan builds on the sustainability metrics developed in the 2010 plan and notes changes in the past 10 years.
“Maintaining healthy forests is key in ensuring a healthy environment in the commonwealth,” said State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger. “Accomplishing this goal will require support from the legislature, stakeholders and the public. We intend to build on the progress we have made since implementing 2010 Forest Action Plan and will continue to make positive strides in managing our forests and improving their overall quality.”
The 2021 plan identifies the 11 priority issues to address: Land use change; Forest health; Sustainable forest management; Climate change; Communicating natural resource values; Energy management and development; Wildland fire and public safety; Plant and animal habitat; Forest-related economy and jobs; Forest recreation; Water and soil.
Pennsylvania’s 10-year strategic plan is a part of a national forest planning effort required by the federal government and mandated by the Farm Bill.
Visit DCNR’s website to learn more about the Pennsylvania Forest Action Plan.