Renewal at the PA Land Trust Conference

April 14, 2013

PALTA field trip Reading the Forested Landscape

I had the privilege earlier this month to attend the Pennsylvania Land Trust Alliance (PALTA) conference at State College. Our GIS specialist at Natural Lands Trust, Megan Boatright, and I were giving a 90 minute talk about using Google Earth (TM) and smartphones to monitor conservation easements (as an alternative to expensive hardware and software). But I stayed for more than my talk, and picked up a lot of information in the three days of the conference.

On a Thursday I left Crow’s Nest at 6 am to attend the field session, “Reading the Forested Landscape” with Jim Finley, Professor at Penn State and forester Charlie Schwartz from the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. Jim covered some basic forest ecology that revealed some gaps in my knowledge. He then led us to the Penn State forest that he has managed for nearly 38 years. His complete joy for the forest is apparent and contagious, and what he has been able to achieve there is beautiful: stands of majestic trees, habitats for wildlife, soil conservation, structural and species diversity, and management of invasive species. And the university has been able to sell some timber while demonstrating how to do it right.

Charlie Schwartz showed us artifacts of the forest and let us try to interpret the history of the land. Based on what we can see in the woods today we know that part was a tilled field with stone walls laid along one edge; others were cleared for pasture. Trees of wildly different size can be the same age, depending on how much competition they face. We found charcoal making platforms and trees with scaffold roots (below) that indicate that the tree germinated on a nurse log or other debris that has since rotted away.

PALTA field trip Reading the Forested Landscape

This session was like a few chapters from Tom Wessel’s book, Reading the Forested Landscape, alive in the woods.

On Friday I spent the day at Millbrook Marsh Nature Center learning about techniques to engage kids with nature. Keynote speaker Ken Finch also ran a session in the field here about approaches to let kids enjoy nature. He asks, “What experiences led you to choose a career protecting nature? And how many of those activities are allowed on your preserves today?” Most people’s engagement with nature, he says, comes from repeated informal play, and occasionally from a mentor. But nobody mentions formal instruction, organized sports, or movies about nature as an inspiration. If we fail to create a future generation of conservationists then it won’t matter how we have protected lands for today. We will have protected them for ourselves, but not for those future generations.


Friday night at the conference PALTA honored Peter Hausmann, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Natural Lands Trust, with the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award. I was thrilled to be present as Natural Lands Trust President Molly Morrison introduced him and PALTA Executive Director Andy Loza presented the award.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 14, 2013.