UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Woodland owners wishing to deepen their understanding of how to care for their woods can benefit from a new synchronous online course offered by Penn State Extension called “Woodland Stewardship: Guided Engagement with Your Land: October 2022.”
Whether for enjoyment, wildlife, solitude, hunting or timber harvesting, people own forests for many reasons. The course is intended to help participants create forests that are healthy, sustainable and aligned with their values. That starts with demystifying the dynamic system of the forest.
“The joke going around is, ‘Forestry is not rocket science. It’s a lot harder,’” said Allyson Muth, director of the Center for Private Forests in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and assistant research professor of private forests management in the college’s Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. “But the idea behind the course is to build a foundational understanding for woodland owners who want to care well for their woods.”
Virtual live sessions will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on four Wednesdays — October 12, October 26, November 9, and December 7 and one Tuesday- November 22. In the two weeks between each live session, participants will watch educational videos, engage in discussion board prompts and apply the information to a learning exercise on their own land. The live sessions will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss the work and ask questions.
Pennsylvania has about 750,000 private forest landowners, who own more than 70% of the state’s forestland.
“We are trying to help people make well-informed decisions that will move the forest to a better place,” Muth said. “We know from research that people who own the woods have a strong stewardship ethic. They see a responsibility to ownership and want it to last beyond them.”
In addition to Pennsylvania woodland owners, the course can benefit woodland owners in other states, particularly those in the Northeast.
Participants will learn about tree identification and measurement, forest ecology, silviculture, water quality, wildlife habitat, and legacy planning.
Participation in the course also will help build the foundation for a forest management plan. Participants will create a map of their property and think specifically about the many factors informing options and decisions in that place. Muth said this involves questions such as, “What’s growing well? What’s missing? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities?”
According to Katie Schmidt, Forest Resources Extension Educator with Penn State Extension, engaging in this process can help participants align what happens in the forest with the values they hold for that place.
“For example, if somebody loves wildlife and they have an older forest, maybe the actions are to create some young forests to attract a greater variety of wildlife species,” she said.
The course also is aimed at helping woodland owners communicate well with service providers.
“As with all professions, there’s a language,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes that language can be a turnoff or can be confusing.”
Schmidt said understanding the language will help participants navigate these types of conversations and take action to move their forest into a better place.
To build a community of support and learning, participants will move through the course alongside a common cohort of other participants. The capacity will be set at 35 people to allow participants to have more one-on-one interactions with each other and the professionals guiding them through the course. And there will be no shortage of expertise.
“The whole of Penn State Extension’s forestry and wildlife team of professionals is going to be participating in this,” Muth said. “All of the educators are engaged and will be part of the live sessions.”
“We’re hoping to offer something that others get excited about,” Schmidt said.
Register by September 30, using code GUIDE30 for $30 off the course. Registrations will be accepted until October 12. More information can be found on the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/
–Alexandra McLaughlin, Penn State Extension