ST. MARYS – As the ninth largest industry in Pennsylvania, forestry contributes $22 billion in direct impact to the state’s economy, the House Majority Policy Committee learned during a hearing held in St. Marys today on issues facing the hardwood forestry industry. The hearing was co-hosted by Rep. Mike Armanini (R-Clearfield/Elk) and Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter), chairman of the committee.
“It was an honor to host the committee to highlight the forestry industry and our area,” Armanini said. “The forest industry, though thriving, can be improved upon and this hearing covered both.”
In addition to the $22 billion in direct impact, forestry has a $39 billion indirect impact on the Commonwealth’s economy, committee members heard. The forestry industry is the Commonwealth’s ninth largest employer with a workforce to 62,000.
However, testifiers said it has the potential to grow. Matt Gabler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, told the committee that Pennsylvania’s forests are growing two to three times faster than they can be harvested, leaving a large potential on the table.
“We have the potential to increase production through improved workforce development, such as the recent general workforce development initiatives taken on by the General Assembly, custom fit to the industry to fill family-sustaining jobs,” Causer said. “Doing so would fill jobs with Pennsylvanians who would harvest our state’s bountiful woodlands to create products made here in the Commonwealth.”
The Pennsylvania Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee has been working to provide logger training and safety programs, as well as educate forestry practitioners and private forest landowners on how to steward forest resources, comply with environmental regulations, and maintain safety.
As employers deal with high worker compensation rates, improved safety programs could be a key to lower rates through fewer injuries.
Workforce development is one of the ingredients toward proper woodland development and management. Another is combating invasive plant species that have made a foothold and are thriving in Pennsylvania.
During a tour of Elk County’s woodlands prior to the hearing, committee members were shown some of the invasive species, such as buckthorn and Japanese knotweed, which are drowning out native plants and trees. Fighting against the invasive species is costly and time consuming. But doing nothing takes away valuable acreage that could be used in forestry.
“If invasive species aren’t taken care of, private forests will be overrun, will no longer be viable and will die,” Armanini said. “Promoting forestry should have a holistic approach to spurring on land development, as well as combatting the invasive plant species running rampant in all parts of the state.”
Also testifying at Wednesday’s hearing were Amy Shields, executive director of the Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group; John Saf, vice president at Generations Forestry Inc.; Michael Hovatter, Pennsylvania regional forester for LandVest; and Calvin Norman, forestry and wildlife extension educator at Pennsylvania State University.
Written testimony and video of the hearing will be available online at PAGOPPolicy.com
Rep. Martin T. Causer
House Majority Policy Committee Chairman
Rep. Mike Armanini
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross