Riparian Enhancement and Forest Stewardship

   Munnell Run Farm is an active participant in the Forests Stewardship Program.  The program is a voluntary one that helps forestland owners manage their lands to meet their goals while sustaining the ecological integrity of the land.  It has been in service in all 50 states since 1990 and is funded by the USDA Forest Service.  In PA, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry administers the program and provides technical assistance to participating landowners.
   Munnell Run Farm began participating in 1996.  That year, Conservation District staff  developed a Forest Stewardship Plan that began with an inventory of the forest resources available at Munnell Run Farm.  The overall goal was to develop a management strategy that protects and enhances water quality, provides food and cover for wildlife, and utilizes the features of the landscape to provide both a source of future income and avenues to educate landowners about forest sustainability (on the right, Mark Bodamer, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, provides insight to landowners interested in woodlot management).  The plan separates the farm into eight distinct management units based on cover, species diversity, soils, and relationship to surface water.
   Over the years, the plan has guided us in implementing key soil and water conservation initiatives.  To date, six of the eight management units described have been fully addressed through hands-on management.  Highlighting those areas are the existing 10-acre woodlot, 10.3 acres of forested riparian wetland complete with livestock exclusion fence and cattle crossings, and approximately 18 acres of planted hardwood tree plantation. 
   In 1997 approximately 12,000 board feet of lumber were harvested from the 10-acre woodlot as prescribed in the plan.  The felled logs were skidded using horses to minimize adverse impacts on the soil and the root systems of the remaining trees within the woodlot.  The logging accomplished two goals: to showcase sustainability through biodiversity and economics, and to establish a shrub layer within the woodlot to obtain regeneration while a seed source was still present.  This was done by harvesting a portion of the mature trees, leaving others to provide seeds for future tree development.  Through this management, the woodlot will be able to be harvested again in approximately 15 years, providing a source of operating revenue. 
   The plan also prescribed the planting of a hardwood tree plantation.  Eighteen acres of hardwoods such as red oak, black cherry, ash, tulip poplar, and maple have been planted on 10 ft X 10 ft spacing with "straightening trees" in between.   These trees are destined to become a silvicultural product sold from the farm.  Upon maturity, the trees will be marketed to the timber industry and provide addtional operating revenue to the farm.
   At the farm, 10.3 acres of pasture was converted to a forested riparian buffer along Munnell Run, the Farm's namesake.  Cattle crossings are integrated into the livestock exclusion fence to facilitate the movement of cattle through the pasture system.  The northern portion of the riparian zone was completed in 1992 and the southern portion followed in 2000 (on the left, kids help us plant Sycamore seedlings in the southern riparian zone).  Research at the farm indicates that phosphorus and fecal coliform were reduced 40% and 60% respectively within 14 months of establishment of the northern riparian zone.  In addition, stream banks have been stabilized and the shade provided by trees and vegetation help maintain a more consistent temperature in the stream ecosystem. 
   The Forest Stewardship Plan developed for Munnell Run Farm has directed our conservation management and met our educational, economic, and environmental goals.  For more information on the program contact the USDA Forest Service.
Pennsylvania residents may learn more about the program at the following website:  http://vip.cas.psu.edu 
Contact Us - 24 Avalon Court, Suite 300 – Mercer, PA 16137 – 724-662-2242
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