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The Penn’s Woods Story!

Here’s a little Penn’s Woods forest history: Back in 1630, before the early settlers, Pennsylvania’s forest cover stood at 90%, over 40,000 square miles of untouched forests! Is it any wonder why our state’s name – Pennsylvania – means Penn’s Woods? William Penn’s 1681 Charter of Rights called for colonists to leave 1 acre of forest for every 5 acres cleared. The 1800’s saw the state at the center of the industrial revolution, driven by the expansion of mining, railroads, petroleum, iron and steel (and hence charcoal) production, and manufacturing. By the beginning of the 1900’s Pennsylvania’s forest cover had dwindled to 32%. Conservationists like Joseph Rothrock and Gifford Pinchot had decades earlier realized gravity of the loss of one of the nation’s greatest natural resources, and conservation efforts got underway in earnest in the early 1900’s. Forest recovery was a slow process, with trees planted by hand in the barren lands that were once beautiful forests. Restoration efforts gained momentum and funding during the 1900’s, and today, close to 60% of the state is once again covered in trees. What’s happening now? Pennsylvania’s forests are shrinking, a trend predicted to continue into the future. A 2012 study shows that by 2030, an estimated 6% or 761,000 acres of all privately-owned forests in the state will succumb to residential development. That’s 1,200 square miles, over 8 cities the size of Philadelphia!

Photo from Penn State Archives

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