Private Landowner's Conference addresses need for better land management

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Jim Finley holds many titles: Ibberson chair for forest resources management, professor of forests, and director of the Center for Private Forests, just to name a few. For the past 43 years, he has been working in forests, and if there's one thing he has noticed, it is that something needs to be done about informing private landowners about protecting Pennsylvania's forests -- the same forests where most hunting, fishing and other recreational activities take place.

Finley was the driving force behind the first 2013 Private Landowner's Conference held in May at the Blair County Convention Center near Altoona. The conference featured 99 presentations that addressed 15 broad topics, such as the relationship between forest and water, recreational use, controlling exotic plants, wildlife habitat management and creating legacy plans.

In Pennsylvania, the conference noted, nearly 750,000 landowners own 11.5 million acres of forestland. This is roughly 70 percent of the 17 million acres of forestland in Pennsylvania. Finley said that a lot of new landowners do not have proper knowledge on caring for their land

"People who own land but don't understand they need to take care of it begin to not even recognize the tree or fail to realize the role that exotic or invasive plants tend to have on the wildlife," Finley said. This disconnect can lead to decreased water quality, species being forced into local extinction, and many other effects.

A study conducted by the Brookings Institute in 2003 found that 385 acres of farmland and forest in Pennsylvania are transformed to other uses, such as residential areas or malls, each day. Finley said this can be prevented by knowledgeable landowners. He stressed that building community is very important, and experienced landowners, foresters and wildlife managers should talk with new landowners about ways to protect and love the land. Landowners need to realize, he said, that they belong to a community that functions ecologically, with every action having an effect.

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Kitoko Chargois: kchargois@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1088.


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