Philly.com: PA’s Private Forestlands Are Imperiled As Their Aging Owners Divide And Sell
By Jason Nark, Phillynews.com
Many trees in Gary Hague's Wyoming County forest sprouted before he was born. Others were planted with his own rough hands. A memory seeded in the summer twilight a half-century ago grows there, too.
The deed says 99 acres "more or less," but it felt even bigger when Hague was 14 and his Uncle George said they needed to walk it. They left the clapboard farmhouse at dusk, mostly silent aside from waking insects, and followed the boundary lines in the long shadows.
When George Hague died in 1973, an attorney told his nephew the land was his.
"I think he drew up his will that night after our walk," Gary Hague, 65, said from his kitchen table in the rancher that replaced the farmhouse. "I think he was trying to show me what stewardship was, that this is family, part of who we are."
He looked out the window at his inheritance.
"Sorry if I get a little emotional about it," he said. "When I was younger, I didn't get emotional, but the older I get, the more I feel."
With about 58 percent of its 28.6 million acres covered in forest, Pennsylvania still honors its namesake, "Penn's Woods," as one of the more heavily-wooded states in the country. The largest forests are several hours' drive from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in north-central Pennsylvania, in counties like Elk, Cameron and Clinton, but unbroken canopies roll across the horizon from all of the state's big highways.
It's often assumed that most Pennsylvania forestland is owned and protected by the state, the federal government, or nonprofit conservancies. But clues on country roads, the thousands of "No Hunting" signs tacked to trees and gated gravel roads, reveal what makes Penn's Woods unique: Nearly three-quarters of it is privately owned. And in a myriad of ways, endangered.
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[Posted: Dec. 14, 2017]
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