In addition to current events and timely articles, this “news” page is meant to serve as an archive of information on all things forest — flora & fauna posts, camping & hiking tips, etc. Whatever you’d like to learn or remember, please browse using the tags, or search.
Save money and multiply your favorite heirloom plants for your yard and to give to friends — hardwood cutting techniques are simple and inexpensive to do at home, once you’re familiar with the procedures. Ty Ryen, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, compiled a list of recommended resources:
Books (these are Amazon affiliate links, so the CFC receives a small commission if they lead to purchases – at no additional cost to you):
- Secrets of Plant Propagation: Starting Your Own Flowers, Vegetables, Fruits, Berries, Shrubs, Trees, and Houseplants, by Lewis Hill
- Plant Propagation A to Z: Growing Plants for Free, by Geoff Bryant
- Plant Propagator’s Bible: A Step-by-Step Guide to Propagating Every Plant in Your Garden, by Miranda Smith
- RHS Propagating Plants, by Alan R. Toogood
- The Complete Book of Plant Propagation, by Graham Clarke & Alan R. Toogood
- The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture, 2d Edition, by Charles W. Heuser and Michael Dirr
- Making More Plants: The Science, Art, and Joy of Propagation, by Kenneth Druse
- Penn State Extension –https://extension.psu.edu/programs/master-gardener/counties/chester/how-to-gardening-brochures/propagating-by-cutting-or-layering
- University of Maine – https://extension.umaine.edu/gardening/manual/propagation/plant-propagation/
Supplies: You can usually use things you have on hand – just disinfect all potting vessels (pots, nursery flats, etc) with hot water and dish soap, or a 10% bleach solution, to protect cuttings & seedlings from disease. Make sure your pruners are very sharp, and disinfect these as well between cuttings – the ARS, HP-130DX 7-Inch Ideal Light Pruner is excellent, and should be about $30. The CFC also uses the 7″ ARS HP-VS7XZ Heavy-Duty Hand Pruner, but this is likely overkill for propagation cutting. Buy or mix a high-quality planting medium, ideally also sterile. >> Click this link for a PDF listing recipes for recommended soil and soilless mixes for seedlings and cuttings <<
We’re sorry to have had to cancel the March 2020 propagation seminar in Cook Forest, but are hoping to reschedule for the autumn, when conditions are optimal for propagation success. If you have questions, please contact Ty Ryen, Service Forester for Forest & Venango Counties, at 814-677-8076, or (omit the spaces in the email address): tryen @ pa.gov
EVENT CANCELLATIONS & CLOSURES in Cook Forest State Park due to Coronavirus / COVID-19 – as of 16 March 2020:
[A]ll public educational programs, special events such as races and festivals, and teacher and other trainings in state parks and state forests are cancelled until April 30. This includes programming by Friends groups and the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and other partners. This also includes weddings, family reunions, fundraisers, trail rides or any other type of event that required an agreement or reservation. — DCNR
Click this image for further updates, posting to the Cook Forest Conservancy facebook page:
CANCELLED IN COOK FOREST:
- 14 March – Plant Propagation with a DCNR Service Forester
- 21 March – Friends’ hike of Indian Trail
- 28 March – CFSP Eagle Watch
- 12 April – Easter Sunrise Service
- 24 April – Earth Day 50
- 25 April – Meet your DCNR Service Forester hike
- 25 April – Friends’ adopt-a-highway cleanup of Forest Road
Presently, trails remain open for disbursed hiking. The park office and all park facilities are CLOSED. Please take sensible precautions.
A short documentary on how & why the State Park is protecting the Hemlock trees of Cook Forest from the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) – and what it would mean if we lost that battle. Hemlock is a keystone species, irreplaceable. Eastern hemlock trees filter sediment and prevent stream bank erosion, and its evergreen boughs are integral for keeping streams cold enough for trout – hemlock streams average ten degrees cooler than waterways without hemlock.
The film is 22 minutes long, will be followed by a short Q & A session.
At 7 pm, all are welcome to attend a general meeting of the Iron Furnace Chapter #288 of Trout Unlimited, featuring speaker Ryan Borcz, DCNR park manager for Cook Forest & Clear Creek State Parks, discussing an in-progress stream habitat improvement the chapter is orchestrating in Clear Creek.
Both events are in Room 120 of the Grunenwald Science and Technology Center (STC), Clarion University of Pennsylvania – GPS Address: 909 E Wood St. Clarion PA, 16214. Free parking is available slightly downhill & across the street.
Clone your Favorite Native Plants:Join Ty Ryen, DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, for this FREE indoor event – a hands-on demonstration with hardwood cuttings, plus tips on timing your cuttings and mixing soil:
Saturday, 14 March 2020 – 11 am – 1 pm >> add event to your google calendarThis free event is open to all. The DCNR Cook Forest State Park office has generously donated their conference room for the gardening seminar – the address is 100 PA-36, Cooksburg, PA 16217, and the google maps code is 8QMR+59 Cooksburg, Farmington Township, PA.
a Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.
So far for most Pennsylvanians, Winter 2020 has been a non-event. Depending on where you live, temperatures are considerably above normal and snowfall below normal. Individual perspectives might lead to interpreting these two statistics as either positive or negative. No snow equals no shoveling. Warm temperatures equal more time outside. Or, no snow equals no sledding or skiing. Warm temperatures equal more ticks.
Thinking more broadly than personal values or needs; Is this winter’s weather a harbinger of a future driven by climate change? If so, how will Pennsylvania’s forests respond?
For sure, weather is fickle. Mark Twain purportedly said, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” It seems something is happening to the climate and, whether you attribute it to human activities or just unexplainable variation, Pennsylvania’s forests are facing challenges.
Forest Resilience in a Changing Climate
Aldo Leopold, a 20th century mid-western conservationist, and author of The Sand County Almanac and many other writings about our relationships to the land and natural systems, was a keen observer of change that others seemed to miss. He wrote, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on the land is quite invisible to laymen . . . in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” Simply, he was saying that the more one knows about ecology, the more apparent change is and that many will neither see nor believe that it matters. Many resource professionals as well as laypeople are seeing change in many areas of our environment. As Leopold suggests though, many of these changes and linkages may not be obvious to less than “keen observers.”
Disturbance and change are part of natural systems. Resilience is the ability of a system to recover after disturbance, which determines its ability to persist and function over time. The degree and extent of a disturbance logically affects the capacity of a natural system to recover. For example, in a typical winter, forests often experience damage from wind and ice. Most commonly this is local damage and a few trees experience broken limbs and some trees tip over. The ability of the forest to function across a larger landscape continues unabated – some trees benefit from increased light and growing space from the loss of their neighbors – the forest almost ignores the event.
Bald and golden eagles prefer fish, but are opportunistic foragers that scavenge when practical. In most areas, eagles have access to food sources with expended lead bullets – field-shot pest species, offal piles, non-recovered game, and weakened, contaminated live prey.
Deer pits across the Game Commission’s State Game Lands provide a regular source of food for scavenging eagles. Hunting season falls in autumn and winter, when scavenging for food becomes more important – and lead poisoning victim numbers spike.
Between 2006 and 2016, lead poisoning was found in one-third of 228 eagles from across Pennsylvania – 30% had detectable levels of heavy metals in their liver. While the specimens died variously from trauma by car, train, and gunshot (also electrocution and infection), the examined animals mostly accumulated the lead levels as a result of scavenging. Lead poisoning destroys the nervous system. If it doesn’t kill the bird outright, the lead poisoning renders it too weak and disoriented to either hunt for food, or protect itself from predators and threats.
One simple way to reduce lead toxicity in eagles and other wildlife is to use non-lead ammunition.
Both performance and cost of non-lead ammunition is comparable to lead counterparts. The PA Game Commission advocates the use of non-lead ammunition to hunters, and it’s safer for people, too, since the lead can’t fragment or leach into game meat. Please ask your local supplier to stock non-lead ammo 🙂
From Centre Wildlife Care:
Since 2013, when we got our blood lead machine, all of the bald eagles that we have taken in have had some level of lead in their blood. Most have needed chelation therapy to remove the lead from the system, plus antibiotics, tube feeding, and months of rehabilitation before they could be released. Some were too sick to save from the lead toxicity/ trauma and died.
We have also seen lead poisoning in hawks, eagles, vultures, crows, gulls, ducks, geese, swans, loons and grebes.
For more information, and to find non-lead ammo, contact:
- The PA Game Commission in your region: Here’s the PAGC page on Eagles (reintroduction, nesting cams, and information on lead toxicity, including a video & webinar) – regional contact information available as well
- huntingwithnonlead.org: why to switch, where to shop, and an email address for help finding hard-to-find calibers in copper
- University of Minnesota Raptor Center: info on poisoning statistics, and downloads
It’s January and perhaps your thoughts are already turning toward summer activities. For many Pennsylvanians, mowing and maintaining lawns is either a larger or small part of their summer routine. Lawns, as we know them, are part of American culture and history(1). An Internet search on lawn maintenance suggests creating the perfect lawn is a major industry very dependent on labor and chemical inputs.
Annually we spread millions of tons of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer around our homes to have the envy of the neighborhood – a perfectly green lawn(2). Interestingly, as interest in organic foods increases, there is a disconnect about using despised chemicals where our children and pets spend quality time. At the same time, water quality suffers as excess nutrients from lawns and agricultural fields are one of the largest sources of non-point pollutants impacting water quality in our streams, rivers, lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Penn State’s Center for Turfgrass Science estimates that Pennsylvanians maintain about 2 million acres of grass (about 7% of the state’s surface area), and 1.4 million acres of this are home lawns (about 5% of the state). About two-thirds of Pennsylvania is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contains an estimated one million acres of lawns.
Pennsylvania has set a goal of converting 10,000 acres of these lawns to woodlands or meadows. This seems like a small target and maybe you can help by learning how to convert lawns to woodlands and meadows by participating in a Penn State Extension Winter Workshop series entitled “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.” This webinar-based education program will use a full-color, 108-page publication by the same title to guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources. Register by Saturday, 18 January 2020 via the link above, or call 877-345-0691.
A principle focus of the workshop series is to learn about what happens to the rain and snow that falls on your land. There is a very strong link between land use and our water resources. Buildings, pavement, lawns, fields – human changes to the landscape – have affected natural water movement and water cycles Water now moves across the land and into streams in different ways and carries with it nutrients and pollutants.
Interestingly, most lawns are very poor at absorbing water – in fact, they are only a little better than pavement! Your lawn, because of grass root structure and soil compaction, can only absorb about 2 inches of water per hour compared to a forest that can handle 14 inches or more in the same time frame. In the ideal scenario, water does not move across the land – instead, it should move into the soil.
DCNR service foresters – at no cost to the landowner – will walk your property, and give sound advice on the following:
- Woodland review & improvement
- Tree planting
- Control of forest pests & invasives
- Wildlife – habitat & management
- Woodland recreation
- Educational & cost-share programs
- Forest management
- Timber harvest
- Riparian & water quality practices
Under the Cooperative Forest Management Program of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, a Service Forester will assist you in understanding and planning the care and management of your woodland – a service to help you gain the maximum in benefits and enjoyment from this resource acreage. While they can’t mark or sell timber, and don’t compete with private consulting foresters, they provide an educated, disinterested opinion and help you progress to the next step of managing your woodlot wisely and sustainably.
To connect with your county’s service forester, contact:
A new law simplifies some of the confusion & cost of posting Pennsylvania property as private and off-limits to both hunters and general trespassers. Rather than posting plastic or metal signs, which deteriorate and can be unsightly as well as expensive, landowners can now paint border trees with purple paint. It also eliminates the debate over whether such signs must be signed to be effective (they do not, but it apparently once was a requirement).
To comply, the purple stripes must be:
- vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide
- 3 to 5 feet off the ground
- readily visible to a person approaching the property, and
- no more than 100 feet apart
The law goes into effect following the winter 2019-20 hunting seasons, and applies everywhere in PA, except in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.
Facebook is waiving all donation fees, and matching all donations on #givingtuesday! This 3 December 2019, all funds raised for the CFSPbridges campaign will be doubled!
You can help us by running a fundraiser on your facebook page, and sharing it with your friends and family – here’s how:
Here are links to useful pages:
- Facebook’s “create a fundraiser” page – facebook.com/fund/cookforestconservancy
- the #CFSPbridges photos on Instagram – instagram.com/explore/tags/cfspbridges/
- photos of the bridges you can use to customize your fundraiser: cookforestconservancy.smugmug.com/ Trails/CFSPbridges
Thanks for your support!
There will be a meeting for Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks on 5 December 2019, 6 pm at the Cook Forest State Park Office – all are welcome and encouraged to attend – share your concerns, priorities, and questions for the future of our beautiful, wild spaces, locally and state-wide.
DCNR needs "more than $500 million due to the appropriated budget for state parks not keeping up with inflation, and due to a reduction in staff, requiring higher costs for contracted labor.
The condition of state park facilities is deteriorating, with some facilities being shuttered, and some recreation activities no longer available — while demand for park use is higher than ever before."
According to a Penn State report, Pennsylvania’s state parks support 12,630 jobs (part-time and full-time), and contribute $400 million in labor income, and $1.15 billion in sales annually. For every $1 invested in state parks from the state’s General Fund, $12.41 is returned to Pennsylvania’s economy. Yet only 0.16% of the state’s General Fund budget goes to state parks.
It’s not only trails, campgrounds, and pavilions that need funding – the forests themselves are under assault from multiple threats that can’t be handled passively. The parks face “declining forest health from invasive plants and animals, declining plant and animal diversity, and fragmentation impacts from roads, trails,” and utilities. DCNR needs funds to acquire inholdings and boundary properties, to to implement “projects that will mitigate the effects of climate change and that address habitat resiliency, riparian buffers, and lake and stream restoration.”
Survey respondents were generally in favor of all these projects – land acquisition, water quality improvement, habitat protection – and “the vast majority agreed or strongly agreed (87%) that visitors to state parks should expect a quiet, natural, and/or wild experience.” Report recommendations also include the establishment of a night sky management program, expansion of educational programs on sustainable and leave no trace practices, and outreach to middle and high school students to create the next generation of stewards of the state park system.
To accomplish this, DCNR will need to meet another of its goals – “ensur[ing] that conservation funding (e.g., the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund) is used for stewardship purposes to repair and improve park resources.” To keep our parks healthy and fully functioning, DCNR will need your support, too – in making public lands a priority for legislators.
This report is only the draft – comments will be accepted until 31 December 2019. Please attend a meeting, or submit comments online.
a Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.
Well once again, Pennsylvania’s forests are a mess – full of litter. Following the annual spectacular display of colors, fallen leaves, twigs, and branches “litter-ly” despoil our forest floors with layers of brown discarded leaves. What a mess!
Depending on your awareness of litter’s value and your aesthetic sensibilities it can result in different appreciation levels. If you are a gardener, you would welcome, collect, compost, and hoard tree leaves. If your taste leans toward green grass lawns, you may abhor fallen leaves. Either way, you will likely gather them up; however, there are some who want to leave them in situ and mow them into increasingly smaller pieces to foster quicker decay hoping they will benefit that lawn.
Forests full of fallen leaves are a gift trees give to themselves. No one rakes or mulches them; nonetheless, they do slowly disappear. Estimates are that a mature hardwood forests produce an estimated 2,000 and 3,000 pounds per acre of litter annually. While most of this (about 70%) is leaves, it also contains twigs and branches, which may be partially decomposed prior to falling. It is amazing that through natural decomposition processes, tons of leaves contribute to forest vitality and health in so many ways.
While visitation is increasing, state funding of the park system continues to dwindle, and the impacts are being felt here in Cook Forest State Park.
One of the busiest of our steel bridges over Tom’s Run closed earlier this year, with five more slated to follow – which requires trail re-routing away from some of the forest’s most lovely locations. Playgrounds are being removed, and picnic tables are turning into nurse logs.
This article printed in the Oil City Derrick details the issues affecting our park, which hosts nearly 500,000 visitors annually, which produces $11 million dollars in economic activity in the area. Please read the full account here – and then urge your legislators to support our beloved state parks, and restore the funding to them: https://www.thederrick.com/free/cook-forest-facilities-are-being-closed/article_76a74e40-d173-11e9-98fc-d75dcc79ddd4.html
If the webpage link ever doesn’t work, a PDF version is available here:
If you find a bat this time of year (late fall to winter), please don’t release them; they will die in this type of weather. They should be hibernating in caves. Those that aren’t in caves hibernating are at risk. Centre Wildlife Care can care for them until spring when it is warm.
If you’re in the State College area, call Centre Wildlife Care at 814-692-0004 – or call Wildlife in Need Emergency Response, which operates a state-wide network of trained wildlife capture and transport volunteers, at 877-239-2097.
Please remember to never touch them with your bare hands; use thick gloves and pick them up gently with a towel. Place the bat in a box with soft cloth or paper towels with a lid, and air holes no bigger than a pencil. Keep them in a warm, quiet, dark room away from pets and people until they can be transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation centre. And, don’t assume that they can’t escape…if you don’t put a lid on the box and weight or tape it down…they will leave. It happens all the time 🙂
a Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Dave Jackson, Forest Resources Educator, Penn State Extension and Matt Russell, Associate Professor/Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota
Many woodland owners take to their woods in October to begin scouting for deer season. A good way to learn more about where white-tailed deer might be found is by understanding what they’re eating. A deer’s diet consists of a variety of crops, herbaceous and woody vegetation, fruits, and nuts. A healthy diet will consist of a variety of different foods. A deer requires an estimated 6 to 8 percent of their body weight daily in forage to stay healthy. For a 150-pound deer, that’s up to 12 pounds of food every day!
Too much browsing pressure, eating twigs and young shoots, from deer can kill or limit the growth of tree seedlings, a fact that foresters and woodland owners know very well. Over decades, deer populations can greatly impact the look of woodlands. Knowing which tree seedlings are growing in your woods and which ones are browsed can give you more details on a deer’s diet.
In Pennsylvania, tree species that rank high on a deer’s list include a number of hardwood trees. Red and white oaks are two of the primary hardwood species that deer prefer to browse, while blackgum, hickory, and yellow poplar are also very high on the preference list. As you move north, species like maple (red and sugar), white ash, and basswood become more preferred species where they are more abundant.
While deer prefer these tree species, they also avoid certain plants. Deer will start by browsing the most preferred or palatable trees first. If there are high populations of deer in an area, preferred plants will see more browsing which can lead to other plants, that deer don’t prefer, taking over.
So what does it mean if deer are browsing beech seedlings/sprouts? Likely that deer are getting desperate and other food sources are limited. Evidence of high deer populations can be seen in a woodland that is dominated by beech brush, striped maple, black birch, black cherry, mountain laurel, ferns (primarily hayscented and New York) and invasive exotic plants. Deer avoid browsing these plants because they are not as digestible compared to other vegetation.
More evidence of deer browse impacts is the presence of a browse line on all understory trees, where there are no green branches until about five or six feet up. Another sign may include the presence of seedlings that are severely hedged and not able to grow above 1-foot in height, as well as understories dominated by species that deer avoid. Deer do not readily eat species like ferns, striped maple, beech, ironwood, mountain laurel, blueberry, and spicebush. As a result, we see these species dominating the forest understory in many areas.
To have a healthy woodland, tree seedlings need to develop into healthy, mature trees. As an example, consider a browse-sensitive species like oak. First, it can take over thirty years for an oak tree to produce acorns. Second, acorn crops only occur every two to five years and truly “bumper” crops much less often. In these good crop years, acorns can make up the majority of a deer’s diet in the late fall. If oaks can never make it from acorn, to seedling, to sapling, to healthy mature tree, the habitat quality for deer can suffer in the long term as oaks are replaced by other, potentially less desirable, species.
Knowing which species are being browsed can also give you insight into which methods can be used to protect seedlings. Although costly, fencing can be constructed around individual trees or larger areas several acres in size. Protecting tree seedlings ensures that you have healthy trees for the future while steering deer towards other food sources.
You may also consider harvesting additional antlerless deer. The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) helps landowners meet their forest management goals by allowing hunters to harvest additional antlerless deer from a property during the regular hunting seasons.
Areas with low deer browsing pressure provide diverse wildlife habitats. They support healthy understories, preparing the forest for future replacement following natural tree mortality or planned timber harvests. Habitat repeatedly damaged by over-browsing continues to decline, losing its ability to support additional deer and other wildlife. It is important to reach a proper balance between desired habitat conditions and deer populations.