By Marylouise Sholly
Pennsylvanians hold the health of the state’s woodlands in their hands, literally.
Allyson Muth believes in educating people about the Commonwealth’s precious resource. Of the 60 percent of Pennsylvania woods that remain forested, 70% of them are privately owned.
“That is a tremendous number,” said Muth, director of Penn State University’s Center for Private Forests. “Our goal is to engage and educate people about their woodland.”
A key part of that education is learning how to be good stewards of the land. To ensure the continuing health of Pennsylvania’s forests, the Center focuses on outreach and education to agencies, landowners and the public.
A forest is defined as at least 1 acre of land that’s not maintained as lawn, with the primary vegetation being trees.
Privately owned forested land is owned by 738,000 landowners, according to the last survey, taken in 2010, Muth said. Interestingly, more than 60 percent of those landowners own less than 10 acres.
About one-fourth of the Commonwealth’s forests are owned by the state, including state parks and forests, state game lands and the Ft. Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania National Guard training facility.
Less than 5% is federally owned, including the Allegheny National Forest.
A recent survey conducted by the Center that asked folks what they liked about having their own forest brought some surprising answers, Muth said.
Using firewood or cutting timber was way down on the survey.
“We asked the owners what was important to them,” Muth said. ” The top two answers were ‘solitude’ and ‘enjoyment.’ We also had comments like, ‘it’s my little piece of paradise,’ and ‘it’s something I own that I can care for.’ ”