Building Forest Resilience in Northwest Pennsylvania

Updated: Feb 5

The following article was written by Guy Dunkle, Forester with the Foundation for Sustainable Forests and was originally included in the Summer/Fall 2020 edition of the "Tracking Invasive Species with Pennsylvania iMapInvasives" newsletter.

Dense understory of natives and multiflora rose. Credit: Guy Dunkle, FSF

Forestland managers have a few prominent tools that are used in efforts to build vibrant, resilient ecosystems. Logging is the tool that catches everybody's eye, generally because it's messy, with treetops scattered around. However, to improve the health of forests, land managers use this tool because it restores the forest to a more natural condition.

Logging allows for patches of light to access the forest floor, thus encouraging new growth of understory and mid-story plants. While it can be controversial and look unsightly in the short term, logging has direct benefits when implemented correctly.

In recent years, another tool has seen as increase in popularity in Pennsylvania; the use of herbicide. As invasive plant species spread, public and private landowners have ramped up efforts to address this concern.

Suppressing invasive species with careful use of herbicides is a cost-effective and time-saving way to control large infestations of invasive plants compared to other methods. At the Foundation for Sustainable Forests (FSF), forest managers remove invasive species to restore native forests. The FSF is a small, not-for-profit land trust operating in the northern and western portions of Pennsylvania and adjacent regions of New York and Ohio. With a mission centered around harmonic utilization of forests, the Foundation has a mandate to actively manage and steward the lands that we protect.

In addition to stewardship of the forestland we own, the FSF has partnered with a handful of local organizations to assist them in the care of their forests. These partners include the City of Erie, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Presque Isle Audubon Society.

Our forestry process focuses on developing multiple age classes of trees, improving native species diversity, maintaining a "full" understory with dense plant cover, and enhancing the vigor of trees. Over time, this management style builds resilience in the forest system - healthy vigorous trees and plants of diverse species and age are better able to bounce back from the disturbances of extreme weather, introduced pests, and invasive species.