Site updated 08/20/13 09:03 AM ©Upper Dauphin Sentinel
Family's land being improved
When Snyder’s grandfather purchased the property from the United Ice and Coal Company – who utilized the site for the commercial production of ice from the Ellendale Dam – a carefully-manicured apple orchard was located on many parts of the property.
As the cleared forestland was allowed to naturally revert to its original state, the species that regenerated differed greatly. At the turn of the 20th century, it grew into a mature second-growth forest of oaks and hickories which produce mast (nuts) and benefit wildlife.
However, the land that originally was cultivated in the apple orchard and later used for agriculture has had a tougher time regenerating into a diverse and productive forest. The western half of the orchard regenerated into a mature stand, consisting primarily of tulip poplars from 1945 to the present. However, this section of forest lacks the diversity of the surrounding forestland that regenerated at the turn of the century.
The eastern side of the former orchard was utilized for the production of oats and corn through the 1950s. By the time Snyder had inherited the land, a thick stand of black locust trees had taken over the former agricultural field.
The Snyders began removing the trees and utilizing them for firewood. Within 10 years, the southern portion of the field was cleared and maintained as a meadow. The meadow still is being maintained and offers diversity and a food source for wildlife.
The southern portion of the field became overrun with a mix of invasive exotic and aggressive native species in the last 20 years. Japanese honeysuckle, bittersweet, poison ivy and other species were choking out the trees.
To help address this overwhelming situation, and to assist him in achieving his goals for the property, Snyder sought the advice of Paul Troutman, who then (in the 1990s) was a service forester for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
On Troutman’s recommendation, Snyder hired a private consulting forester to develop a forestry stewardship plan that contained evaluations of the different species and ages of forest on the property and specified unique management zones.
With assistance, Snyder developed a set of objectives for his land, which included preserving pristine forestland to benefit wildlife, enhance biodiversity and promote native species, while also providing an opportunity to educate the public and allow for firewood collection. To reach this goal, each management zone contained a different set of recommendations.
The Snyders have been working tirelessly to implement the recommendations contained in the plan with the continued support of DCNR.
When the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture began offering financial assistant to help fund the implementation of Forest Stewardship plans, Andrew Brought – who became service forester upon Trout-man’s retirement – provided Snyder with an application for federal funding.
With financial assistance from NRCS, Snyder hired Phillip Manning of North-east Land Management LLC to develop and implement a tree planting plan. Manning evaluated the current site conditions of the reverting field and developed an up-to-date plan including: preparation of the field for planting; selection of native species and planting density; and a three-year maintenance plan.
Snyder began the difficult task of clearing the field in the fall of 2012 so that planting could begin the following year. He first cleared three paths across the field to provide access for a sprayer unit mounted on a four-wheeler to apply herbicide on the unwanted vegetation.
Then this year, one thousand native trees were planted in the cleared field April 12-13. Three trails, which were seeded in grass, were marked out to provide access for future maintenance activities.
Hardwood trees, consisting of red and white oaks, hickories and poplars were planted in a random pattern between the marked trails. Clumps of conifer trees were planted among the many hardwoods to provide diversity and shelter for wildlife. The hardwood trees were equipped with staked tree shelters and netting, and the conifers were fenced to protect them from deer.
Manning hopes that with the competition of the aggressive species controlled, many native trees will take root and begin growing.
The driving force behind the regeneration of this field is to mimic the existing species in the surrounding native forest. Snyder said he believes that properly managing his forestland is his calling and duty.
“I am extremely grateful for the federal and state programs and personnel that are available to support me as I realize my goals,’’ he said.
In pursuing this project, Snyder has been careful to include his sons every step of the way. In managing forests, it often takes decades to see the results of management decisions. He said he hopes that one day, this land will continue in his family and he wants to pass along a forest that they will continue to cherish.
Even with this project not yet completed, Snyder is looking to the future and has applied for additional funding through NRCS to implement conservation practices on other management units.
All private woodlot owners who desire to better manage their forestland are encouraged to apply for financial assistance for help with developing a forest stewardship plan and/or implementing the recommendations contained in that plan.
Woodlot owners may contact their county’s NRCS field office for more information or an application. The phone numbers are as follows: Dauphin, 921-2380; Northumberland, 570-286-7114; and Schuylkill, 570-622-1312.
(Geri Mason is a soil conservationist with the NRCS Field Office in Dauphin County.)