Integrating Stewardship Forestry into Total Farm Management

1993 Annual Report for LNE93-037

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1993: $48,408.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1995
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $52,579.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
James Finley
Pennsylvania State University

Integrating Stewardship Forestry into Total Farm Management


Well-managed forests product many environmental and economic benefits such as improved air and water quality, wood products, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat. Farmers are one of the largest groups of forest landowners in the U.S. For this and future generations, it is essential that farmers wisely use and manage their forests.

This project established seven demonstration and research replicates to examine the economic and environmental benefits of proper farm woodlot management as well as to demonstrate various management practices. Each twelve-acre replicate consists of six two-acre treatments: a control and five timber harvesting practices. Three of the seven replicates are on state forest land, and the remaining four are on private, state parks, state game lands, and university properties. Remeasurements to gauge growth response to various treatment are complete and should show changing stand structure and species composition shifts.

The installations demonstrate the benefits and consequences of timber harvesting to farm woodlot owners and others. The completed demonstrations have been used as part of extension workshops for landowners, foresters, and timber harvesters. The plots prove that this type of outdoor classroom is very useful for conveying forest stewardship concepts. The plots provide important baseline data for long-term monitoring of forest growth and value, and changes in species composition with resulting changes in wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

* Establish six timber harvesting demonstration and study replicates distributed in different timber types in Pennsylvania.

* Enhance the adoption of a forest stewardship ethic by farmers, timber harvesters, other landowners, and extension agents, by demonstrating the impacts of various silvicultural options.

* Develop baseline data for monitoring forest growth and changes in species diversity.

* Determine the economics of sustainable forestry practices and potential contributions to the whole farm budget.

Specific Project Results
Ultimately, we established seven demonstration and research replicates. These included the six proposed in this project and another developed as part of the farmer grant program on the Freeman Tree Farm. Two additional demonstrations are now available on state forest lands and a another one on state park lands is marked and ready for harvest. The Bureau of Forestry plans to establish at least one demonstration following the model established for this project in each of the state’s 67 counties.

The demonstration sites have served as focal points for many tours in the past four years. Survey results indicate that these sites are effective educational tools for introducing participants to basic forest ecology and management principles. In addition, the comparison of various treatments suggests that sustainable forestry can meet a variety of landowner objectives, including economic feasibility.

Field crews collected preharvest and postharvest data at all seven sites in 1993 and 1994. Data collected included overstory tree species, diameters, and merchantable heights. In addition, they measured and described regeneration and herbaceous plant communities and established photo points to document stand development. Overstory remeasurements were completed in December of 1997; however, comparison of this data with the initial inventory is incomplete. In a cooperative effort with the U. S. Forest Service, the Habitat Assessment Model developed under another SARE project was run in 1996 on each site and compared across treatments to demonstrate how harvesting affects wildlife use.

Initial data served to develop the total economic value before harvesting and the value realized from harvesting the blocks. Simulations of value change over time, although planned, remain undone. A new graduate student, entering the program this winter, may choose to complete this phase of the project.

Dissemination of Findings
All of the sites continue to host tours, although use varies by location. The replicates on the Freeman Farm, Stone Valley Experimental Forest, French Creek State Park, and State Game Lands 211 are the most frequently used. This most certainly relates to their location and the commitment to the maintenance and use of the sites to influence forest management. The other three sites are more isolated and are thus difficult to reach. Nonetheless, all seven sites contribute to the objective to reach specific audiences.

Handouts and brochures convey the nature of materials developed to reach target audiences using the sites. The replicate was a featured element in the 50th of the tree farm program hosted at the farm. Last year, on that one day alone, more than 300 landowners and interested citizens visited the site. As an aside, The Freeman Farm received the 1998 National Tree Farm of the Year Award from the American Forest Foundation. This the first time that the national winner has come from Pennsylvania, and we are confident that the structure plots played an important role in the farm receiving this recognition. The Stone Valley site has hosted the 60 students participating the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for each of the past three years. That same site also played a prominent role in a day-long program for 50 teachers participating in the Pennsylvania Alliance of Environmental Educators workshop this fall.

State Game Lands 211, only 10 miles north of the Harrisburg, the state’s capital, receives untold numbers of visitors. For the past three falls, volunteers with the state’s Forest Stewardship Program have hosted tours as local residents travel through the state game land. Normally the road just beyond the replicate is closed, but on one Saturday each fall the commission opens the road for people to enjoy the area’s scenic beauty. The local extension agent works with the volunteers to maintain the trail through the site and the signs along the route. This summer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission chose to develop a thirteen-part public television series on the state’s forest and wildlife resources. This replicate played a prominent role in one of these segments addressing the role of white-tailed deer and forest renewal.

The French Creek State Park replicate is nicely sited for use by schools in and near Philadelphia. In 1997, a graduate student at Penn State working with the Bertram Cluster in Philadelphia used this site to evaluate the role of demonstrations in helping center-city youth understand forest management.

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative of Pennsylvania, part of an American Forest and Paper Association effort to ensure sustainable forestry practices, is using the replicates in various ways. All of the loggers participating in the first-level Sustainable Forestry Course visit through slides one of the sites. During the presentation they have the opportunity to compare various cutting practices, including high-grading. To date, more than 800 Pennsylvania timber harvesters have completed this course. During the second-level course the timber harvesters will actually visit one of the sites and collect data on forest regeneration. Interestingly, two of the sites are now part of another demonstration project showing the impact of water quality best management practices funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Potential Contributions and Practical Applications
Farm woodlots are typically a source of quick cash, and are too frequently harvested without regard for future income and productivity. Woodlots managed with this approach cannot sustainably produce high-quality products. What many farmers and other landowners do not realize is those woodlots are an asset -- an asset that, if managed in a more sustainable fashion, can produce reliable periodic returns. In Pennsylvania, "high grading," or taking the best and leaving the rest, is a widely employed harvesting practice on private forest lands. It provides immediate large financial returns, but it ruins the resource for future years and perhaps future generations. The treatment that demonstrates "high-grading" has proven useful in conveying the consequences of such a practice. An improvement thinning, again one of the practices demonstrated, serves as an investment in the future forest by increasing residual tree vigor and productivity, while at the same time providing some immediate financial return. Workshop participants see the differences between sustainable and unsustainable forestry firsthand.

Perhaps one of the unanticipated and yet very valuable benefits of this project has been the variety of audiences who use the sites and the number of messages that the sites convey to the users. The Bertram Cluster project with an inner-city Philadelphia school showed that providing examples of various harvesting practices in close proximity helps students understand the environmental effects of timber harvesting. Working with diverse audiences, we learned that demonstration projects can change knowledge and attitudes within groups. Most specifically we have shown that participants in education programs more readily understand and accept clearcutting as a management tool after viewing the demonstration areas.

After viewing the sites, timber harvesters often express changes in their understanding of timber harvesting impacts. Most specifically they recognize the potential to cause adverse shifts in species composition, stand structure, and rotation length through the application of diameter-limit harvests. This revelation has particular application as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative of the American Forest and Paper Association continues to expand across the country.

New Hypotheses
Evaluation results from workshops indicate that participants acquire useful information. Outdoor demonstrations enhance learning in the areas of forest ecology and management. Future research might include determining how long knowledge stays with a person, and how often reinforcement is necessary. In addition, what does this knowledge have on future woodlot management practices? Will fewer landowners "high-grade" because of what they have learned? Does the impact of the harvest demonstrations change as the immediate visual impact of harvest declines? Can timber harvesters and professional foresters use the sites to change client notions about the merits of harvesting large, old trees to benefit small, young trees? Will the demonstrations serve to show the combined effects of timber harvesting, tree and plant regeneration, and white-tailed deer feeding?

Farmer Adoption and Direct Impact
Research to determine whether visiting the demonstration areas causes farmers or other landowners to change their management practices was not a formal part of this project. However, it is safe to say that many landowners seemed enlightened about the consequences of "high-grading" versus more sustainable methods of timber harvesting. Research did show that the sites were effective in changing attitudes toward clearcutting as a viable management tool. There is also evidence that the exclosures on each of the six treatments at each of the seven replicates are useful in convincing visitors of the negative changes that high white-tailed deer populations cause in forest systems.

Reported December 1998. 1999 Northeast Region SARE/ACE Report.