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Susquehanna Life

Working Woods for Today and Tomorrow: 2019 Forest Landowners Conference

Jan 28, 2019 10:50AM ● By Erica Shames

Photos by Laura Kirt

 Large and small woodland owners can learn how to better manage and enjoy their property at the 4th biennial Forest Landowners Conference to be held March 22-23 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College, PA. 

Sponsored by the Center for Private Forests at Penn State and its partners, this two-day event brings together the best tools, instructors, resources, and connections to equip Pennsylvania’s forest landowners to make informed decisions that ensure the present and future well-being of their woods. A carefully crafted lineup of presentations, keynote speakers, tours, workshops, and exhibitors will inspire, educate, and build the growing community of forest landowners committed to caring for their woods. 

 

One of the main features of the conference is the nine learning sessions with 11 presentation offerings at each session. The breadth and diversity of presentation offerings provides attendees with the opportunity to learn about topics relevant to their needs and interests. Topics range from forest health, wildlife, water, financial, legacy planning, and small acreage opportunities to drones, charcoal, prescribed fire, pollinators, and chronic wasting disease. For conference details and to register visit ecosystems.psu.edu/forest-conference or call 1-877-778-2937.

 How does a two-day premier event like this impact the participants? The best way to find out is to ask them. A few months after the 3rd biennial Conference in 2017, the Center surveyed the over 600 participants – from those who don’t own woodland but love the woods to owners of small and large acreage, and the natural resources professionals who work with them. Here’s some of what they shared.

Two days of learning

“I’ve increased my woodland management activity in general due to inspiration from the entire conference,” one landowner of over 200 acres said. “I know it’s hard to come up with diverse ideas, but you all nailed it.”

“I attended to learn about limited liability companies and am now trying to get members of my family interested,” said a forest landowner of 180 acres, adding that they hoped to form an LLC within the next five years.

“Perhaps most importantly, I met many of the professionals who can help me plan and implement management for wildlife and forest health on my property,” another landowner said. “Meeting people face to face and seeing how enthusiastic and knowledgeable they are gave me great confidence moving forward. Meeting other landowners and hearing about their successes – and failures – has helped me tremendously.”

 

Taking action in the woods

In the months following their experience at the 2017 conference, landowners shared that they set up a timber harvest, treated invasives, cleared vegetation for regeneration, and improved wildlife habitat. The conference inspired them to hire a consulting forester, network, update their management plans, look at conservation easements, join a woodland owners association, get their children involved, check out the Clean and Green program, and plan for the future. They began work to increase the bat and bee populations, plant trees, establish bird habitat, add biochar to their garden, and even learn how to make wine from the fruits of the land. They are now using online tools, joining webinars, and researching government assistance programs.

“I bought a consumer-grade GPS unit, contacted three land surveyors, and am in discussion to decide which to hire to survey my land,” a landowner said after learning about hardware and emerging software to help record, map, and navigate forestland.

Looking ahead

Over the next five years, “I plan to grow mushrooms, continue my stewardship program, plant more trees, and spread my interest in the forest to my children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors,” an owner of 30 acres said. “At an upcoming family reunion, I will be giving out seedlings to all the younger generation so they can plant and care for them on their own property.”

An owner of 500 acres is looking into becoming part of Pennsylvania’s Tree Farm program, a natural resources professional is implementing more conservation practices for wildlife, a small woodland owner is treating for invasives and harvesting a few trees for firewood – actions taken based on what they learned at the conference.

The bottom line: woodland owners – of all knowledge levels and property sizes – came together to share learning experiences relevant to their interests and needs and to put what they learned into action. Providing education, connections, and resources to take action to be better stewards – this is what the Forest Landowners Conference is all about.

“I’ve continued activities on maintaining our property within the family and being good stewards beyond me,” a northeastern Pennsylvania forest landowner said. “This is an excellent program, time very well-spent by attending. I look forward to the next one!”

 Register for the conference at ecosystems.psu.edu/forest-conference and use Code SUSLIFE19 for $5 off registration.

 

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