Friday, February 16, 2007

Allegheny SAF Meeting

With this week's big winter storm (at least big by mid-atlantic standards) I didn't make it to the first day of the Society of American Foresters Allegheny meeting in Hagerstown, MD. But there were some very interesting talks on Thursday morning (2-15) that made the trip worthwhile.

David Curson, the director of bird conservation for the MD/DE Audubon Society of talked about the Important Bird Areas Program (IBA). This is an attempt to identify critical habitat for endangered bird species. The program has been successful by working with the federally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP). This voluntary program actually favors active forest management, since there are many species of birds requiring the whole range of habitats from clearcuts to older growth forests.

Dan Heddrick, of the Maryland DNR Forest Service, described a research project in western MD to study timber harvesting on small plots (1 to 10 acres). The logger is using a four-wheeler and a chain saw. The study will examine the economic feasibility and social acceptability of the work.

With land fragmentation becoming a critical problem, landowners of small lots (ten acres or less) need help with what to do on their properties. Jonathan Kays of the the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service described a new manual/workbook for these landowners, titled The Woods in Your Backyard. The workbook has been audience tested and should help landowners who are tired of moving their lawns and want to bring a little nature back.

Al Todd of the Forest Service gave a summary of the recent report The State of Chesapeake Forests from the Conservation Fund. The report was presented to the governors of the states draining into the Chesapeake who are all members of the Chesapeake Bay Program. Forest fragmentation and development are causing deforestation, soil erosion, and loss of habitat that are having a dire effect on the bay. We risk losing all the environmental services that the forests and the bay provides. According to the report, we are close to the point of no return, where decisive action needs to be taken.

The director of the Maryland Forest Service, Steve Koehn, gave the final word. According to Steve, the problems of development, ownership fragmentation, and deforestation, are affecting all natual resources uses and industries. Foresters need to become politically active to influence the situation. We have to show how these problems affect people's lives, health, and pocketbooks to get the decision makers (politicians) to take action.

Only the Penn State University Park students made it to the meeting. So instead of a quiz bowl, they had an old-timers vs. students quiz bowl. Next year Mont Alto and the other schools will all be there for a real competition.

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