copy of a submission to the PA Forest Stewards New May/June 2016 edition:
Why We Are PAFS
~ Laura Jackson
I’m the treasurer and membership chair for my local woodlands group: the Woodland Owners of the Southern Alleghenies (WOSA) in Bedford and Fulton Counties. I recently sent a note to a member, thanking him for renewing his membership in WOSA. His reply to me was greatly appreciated and worth sharing, as I imagine other woodland owners feel the same across Pennsylvania, even if they don’t take the time to express it. I hope sharing this inspires us to remain committed to PAFS and to be an active part of our local woodland owners group. Our efforts are making a difference!
From Joe Gothie, a member of the Woodland Owners of the Southern Alleghenies, with permission to share:
“Of all the checks I write in a year, there are very few where I think, "Wow, I can't believe how much benefit I get for the price!" For me, WOSA is one of those things. Not only do I enjoy the educational aspect of the programming, but as a practical matter I've gotten a bunch of utility out of the organization. There are always things that I hear and I think "I'm going to do that!" but don't get to, but the things I have actually used include:
1. Chainsaw training (!!!) I use this constantly now, and I am certainly a million times safer as a result. My brother and sister likewise are in the same position.
2. Brush piles for wildlife (For the most part, I try to build these now when using the chainsaw instead of chipping or burning brush leftover from tree cleanups).
3. Bird boxes (I buy some of these each year, and we see far more bluebirds (and swallows) in the valley now in the areas where these have been installed).
4. Planning our plantings (this isn't specifically a forest management plan, but in terms of remediating bad areas somewhat informally, we look very much at known pests, diseases, and uses, as well as thinking about the benefits of diversity in case of a catastrophic disease affecting one or more species).
5. Being aware of local resources that can help us out (we used to buy our trees for plantings from nurseries directly, but now go through the local conservation district(s) because we're aware of them -- we never really knew about them or their programming before).
6. Having a much better idea about the dynamic nature of a forest, whether as a result of human interventions like cutting or planting, through growth, disease, pests, climate, and other causes. I thought of a forest as much more static before. It was never "untouched" and never will be "untouched" even if we don't touch it. That was a big conceptual leap for me, particularly.
On a general note, while I do walk around and see all the problems (invasives, poorly logged areas struggling to recover, dead ash trees, etc.) I also appreciate what we do have that much more. I also have a good idea about what we need to do to make it better and how to slowly educate and invest my kids in being the next stewards and caretakers.
Working with/for a nonprofit with limited resources is a thankless job, and it pays so well. Nevertheless, what WOSA has done over the years for me is appreciated tremendously. Again, I appreciate the spirit in which you offered thanks for my renewal, but I'm the one who should be thanking you and everyone who has "kept the fire burning" at WOSA both now and over the years:
Thank you for all that you have taught me and others in my family. You see my uncle, brother, and sister, but you are also teaching my two kids (indirectly for now). Thank you for helping me to appreciate my chunk of forest and for helping me learn to take care of it better. You folks are awesome.
Joseph N. Gothie, Esq.