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Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources highlights RRI/USFS event
As published by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/news/resource/res2010/10-0512-delawaresf.aspx.
Delaware State Forest rolls out the green carpet for visiting group of international professionals
French. Chinese. Russian. Native languages spoken by this group were as diverse as the hardwood species surrounding them as they entered the Delaware State Forest for the first time. Problems of this land tract were foreign to these international visitors, but not its promise, for they shared the love and commitment of global forestry.
Instantly, they were at home.
Trunks of red and white oak were inspected and rubbed. Needles of hemlock and white pine and just-emerging leaves of so many hardwoods were fingered. Scores of photographs were taken; dozens of questions asked. And interest was intense as tour guides retraced the history of the land where the group stood.
DCNR Service Forester Mike Roche outlined the past and present of the 2.1 million-acre state forest system some of us know so well: the pillaging of yesteryear; rise and fall of the American chestnut; value of our hardwood timber industry; the gypsy moth, wooly adelgid and other forest insect pests that keep rearing destructive heads.
“Please, look out in front here and tell me if you think this is a healthy forest by raising your hand,’’ urged Roche, motioning to a stretch of forest floor punctuated only by endless mature tree trunks.
Many heads shook back and forth, but nary a hand was raised. Puzzled, some kept looking behind the speaker to a different forest, ripe with under story. Here, saplings of all sizes competed to crowd each other out. Here, wild flowers grew and ground cover flourished. Here was a healthy forest, separated from the visitors by something none ever had seen.
Enter the deer “exclosure” fence, yet another teaching tool in a day-long workshop that easily could be labeled “Delaware State Forest 101.” And a new speaker, addressing the group from a promontory tree stump:
“You might say, ‘If deer are damaging the forest, why not shoot more deer?’” said DCNR Deputy Secretary Dr. James Grace, “but we do not oversee the deer, we oversee the forest. Hunters want to see more deer, so they are frustrated when they don’t—even when the habitat is not there to support them.
“So we have this constant struggle—a problem we’ve been fighting for over 40 years now,” said Dr. Grace. “Some just don’t want to realize that across our state’s 17 million acres of woodlands, deer populations were the strongest back in the 1940s and early 50s when our forests were the strongest.”
Shifting gears to another Pennsylvania forest threat, Dr. Grace reminded the group of where they stood—in a remote stretch of Pike County, less than two hours travel time from New York City and northern New Jersey.
“Development pressure in this county has exploded in recent years and this is the biggest threat to forestland in this area,” Grace told the MegaFlorestais participants assembled before him.
It was April 14, Day Four in the weeklong seminar sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service and Rights and Resources, and based at Gifford Pinchot’s historic home, Grey Towers, in Milford. By day’s end, five DCNR forestry and parks officials would address the 18 visitors representing the world’s most heavily forested nations. Together, Promised Land State Park Manager Alex Stout and Delaware State Forest Assistant Manager Tim Ladner outlined goals and reasoning behind an innovative equine campgrounds now taking shape at the park and adjoining state forestland. Delaware Forester Tim Carr would lead them through the intricacies of a timber sale, and into the deer exclosure, where he pointed out species and non-stop questioning.
Tag along with them and you recall images as bright and warm as that day’s cobalt sky and shirt-sleeve temperatures:
- At the outset, the hope and intense interest reflected on the face of Canada’s Catriona Armstrong as she wanders among a fenced acre of hybrid American chestnut trees again reaching for the sky. She would pepper guide Robin Wildermuth with questions about the project, one of many undertaken as land manager and consulting forester for the sprawling Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club;
- At day’s end, the pure delight shining on the smiling face of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Theophile Gata as he grabs the waists of the uniformed Carr and Roche and asked a companion to photograph them;
- At lunchtime, the good-natured kidding of Russia’s Tatyana Yakusheva and Ivan Sovetnikov as they review the park’s wildlife publications, trying to pronounce “opossum,” “groundhog” and “Canada goose,” while no doubt comparing them to critters back home.
Why bring together 18 professionals from forest ministries and other public agencies representing seven of the world’s most heavily-forested nations—Brazil, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States? Because it fosters frank, open dialogues intended to nurture the next generation of leaders, organizers respond.
“The same innovation that Gifford Pinchot used when introducing the concept of forestry in the U.S. parallels what these leaders are facing today,” said Luke Bailey, Senior Associate, Policy Analysis with Rights and Resources Initiative. “This isn’t so much about passing on the technical fixes as it is to demonstrate the many different types of solutions to the same challenges that they share.”
One of the objectives of the “Global Issues in Governance of Natural Resources” seminar at Grey Towers was to expose this next generation of forestry leaders and cultivate peace and prosperity in forest areas. The group learned, discussed, brainstormed and challenged each other on such topics as climate change, the global marketplace, forest land governance, forest management regulations and community forestry enterprises.
But there was much more, Bailey points out.
Perhaps it was the irony of the meeting place: when Gifford Pinchot wanted to introduce forestry in America, he had to travel to European nations—where forestry already was being practiced—to learn forestry technique and principles. Now, more than 100 year later, representatives of the world’s most heavily forested nations gathered at Pinchot’s home, Grey Towers, to discuss some of the 21st century’s most complex forestry challenges.
And then there was the camaraderie shared by men and women drawn together by their love and knowledge of the forest:
“I think I speak for the group when I say that the most rewarding part of this seminar was really getting acquainted with their peers from around the world,” Bailey said. “Unlike many international events where forest service agents attend as official representatives of their country, the informal discussions held at Grey Towers lead to personal connections between participants and allowed for frank discussions about the challenges they are facing in their countries. We were very privileged to have such an engaging and sophisticated group.”
And the day devoted exclusively to sampling Pennsylvania’s forest and parkland?
“The group really enjoyed the site visits organized by DCNR,” said Bailey. “It gave them a glimpse of some of the issues facing Pennsylvania state forestry and some innovative responses. More importantly, though, was the exposure to the different ways that state and federal management agencies work together to improve U.S. forest landscapes and the public benefits they provide.”
Catriona Armstrong headed back to Ottawa with newfound knowledge DCNR’s private land stewardship efforts, problems facing state land, and the myriad “forestland ownership patterns in the state … quite different from what we tend to see in Canada.
“We spent quite a bit of time discussing the issues surrounding forest management, deer population and habitat, and game management in the state,” said Armstrong, a commerce specialist with the Canadian Forest Service’s Industry and Trade Division. “It's a complex situation and I think that many participants, regardless of which country they represented, could identify with a situation where there are multiple values and differing perspectives on forest management activities.
“However, I was personally most fascinated to see the American Chestnut plantation and learn about the tree-breeding program, which really demonstrates a wonderful commitment by landowners and other individuals to work together to restore this species.”
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Theophile Gata looked back at his trip guided by DCNR officials. That country’s forest advisor offered very complimentary words:
“Your spatial planning, leaving various uses for conservation, housing, recreation, communication infrastructures, is flawless,” said Gata. “The sustainable managing of private and state forests for timber production to raise revenues for the state and communities is so well done that some uses on a single area such as sport hunting and timber production aren't incompatible.”
Noting DCNR’s multi-use concept “poses management problems here at home,” Gata said, “We firmly believe that you are an example to follow in your work, but here at home, many constraints related to capacity building of the forestry sector must first be lifted before talks (can address) good governance forestry.”
Finally, some differences and some similarities cited by Susan Rich, visiting from New Mexico where she serves as forest and watershed health coordinator with that state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department:
“The issues you are facing in managing Pennsylvania’s forests and those we face here in New Mexico appear almost opposite at first, but on deeper inspection, the underlying drivers and the solutions are actually very similar,” Rich noted. “You are struggling with an overabundance of deer leading to a lack of under story in your forests. We face overstocked forests, especially in disturbance-adapted landscapes from which wildfire and floods have been excluded for decades.
“But the similarities are notable. We both are concerned with a lack of balance in our forests and the resulting loss of biodiversity.”
Held for the fifth year, and hosted by different countries, the seminars are an outgrowth of the Rights and Resources Initiative and the U.S. Forest Service’s shared and longstanding commitment to help public forest agencies cultivate leadership.
Posted By Lopaka Purdy at 10:39am on May 12, 2010
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