Training Prisoner’s, Utilizing Wood, and Mapping Tree’s in Pennsylvania

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
In winter 2017 PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in partnership with PA Department of Corrections (DOC) piloted an arboriculture program at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Rockview’s Forestry Camp in Bellefonte, PA. Throughout November and December of 2017 ten classes were held, each class was based on the chapters in International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Arborists’ Certification Study Guide; 15 men received 18 hours of training. The ISA donated Study Guides which allowed the men to review and study the material further on their own time outside of class. We wanted to continue to engage participants so we listened to their feedback and responded by holding a 3-day Tree Climbing School taught through the gracious willingness from Penn State Extension Arboriculture Instructor, James Savage.  Rockview’s Forestry Camp is unique, a minimum security housing unit surrounded by about 2500 acres of forested land and a 100+ tree nursery; and the men that live at Forestry Camp have daily responsibilities resembling that of a typical work-day that range from land-care and tree nursery management to equipment operation and repair. The arboriculture program simply compliments the hands-on experience the men at Rockview’s Forestry Camp are already receiving.  The overall, and continually evolving, program, facilitated by DCNR employee, Shea Zwerver, seeks to provide employable skill to inmates nearing release, in arboriculture. There is a nation-wide demand for skilled-workers in the tree care industry in the U.S. By teaching inmates tree-climbing skills and lessons in arboriculture the goal of the program is that it will give participants a marketable edge to find work upon reentry and in an industry with livable wages.
Urban Wood Utilization Workshop:
Research has clearly documented the many benefits a dense urban tree canopy provides. But as we encourage the increased planting and care of urban trees, it’s important to recognize that the quantity and cost of wood disposal will also grow. In order to encourage full circle urban forest management, the PA Bureau of Forestry has initiated an effort to make better use of urban wood, so that it becomes recognized as a valuable resource in and of itself, rather than as a cost to a tree program. A 2007 study by Sherrill and MacFarlane estimated that 22 million tons of wood are generated from urban tree removals in the US each year, enough to build more than 285,000 homes. A 2014 study by Nowak suggested that the volume may be closer to 26 million tons. Workshops were held in 2016 and 2017 in two different metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania, bringing together municipalities, private tree services, portable and stationary sawmills, secondary processors, woodworkers, lumber suppliers, artisans, craftsmen, teachers, and design specialists. An enthusiastic crowd of sixty to seventy people attended each workshop. Classroom instruction was provided by forest products specialists from the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Forestry. Attendees were introduced to examples from elsewhere around the country, and also had the opportunity to interact with local businesses that currently utilize urban wood, and municipalities that have begun to do the same. Field demonstrations included a portable sawmill operation, small dry kiln construction and operation, and the small scale manufacture of charcoal for use as biochar. A template for the development of an online networking tool has been created, using the example of other states as a starting point. Discussions are underway internally with agency IT personnel to build the network. What is envisioned is a publicly accessible system through which all links of the supply chain can locate one another, or through which the public can locate a specific type of service or product.

PA Tree Map:
The PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry in collaboration with PA Urban and Community Forestry Council, developed a tree mapping and Urban Tree Management tool to help citizens across the state better manage and grow their forests.  PA partnered with Azavea to develop PA Tree Map, a statewide mapping platform that is a “one-stop shop”, incorporating remotely-sensed tree canopy data, tree inventory and green infrastructure data. The tool helps communities’ educate citizens on trees’ ecosystem benefits, increase awareness of canopy coverage and make more informed urban tree planning decisions.  The tool gives communities’, volunteers and urban tree managers the ability to conduct tree inventories, monitoring activities, and track tree maintenance and stewardship activities.  Currently, 28 municipalities across Pennsylvania are using PA Tree Map, with 10 more planning mapping projects this summer.  PA Tree Map is now integrated into our statewide TreeVitalize grants, requiring grantees to map trees awarded through our program. PA Tree Map can be found at the following site:
Media Contact is Rachel Reyna,