Forests Stable, but Risks Abound
Orso, Anna, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
STATE COLLEGE -- More than half of Pennsylvania remains covered by forest in spite of invasive critters and plants, urban sprawl and development, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But those threats are growing, and the state's forest is changing, the USDA warns in a recent report.
"We keep modifying this place where we live to things that don't fit. Then what's the future of that forest?" said James Finley, professor of forest resources management at Penn State University. "What's the future of the value we tie to it?"
About 59 percent of the state, or 16.7 million acres, is forest that has remained stable for several decades, Finley said.
But continuing development, particularly in southern parts of the state, threatens forest growth and is causing some areas to lose forest cover.
Other areas, especially in northern parts of the state, are gaining forest, largely because some agricultural areas are being returned to forest land. Greene, Bedford, Washington and Somerset counties are among those increasing in forest cover, Finley said.
Urban sprawl and development in parts of the state are deforesting about 150 acres of forest land a day. Finley said conversion of agricultural lands eventually will occur more slowly than the deforestation, so within the next decade, Pennsylvania's forest cover likely will decline. …