Plant Smart

Trees & Forests:  Protect & Conserve

In a nutshell:


Properly care for your trees

Just like people, trees need care to grow up great. Long-term tree care involves preventing damage to the tree’s trunk and roots and judicious pruning of limbs.

• Mulch to conserve soil moisture, stabilize soil temperatures, reduce competition from grasses and weeds, provide nutrient–rich organic material to the soil, and prevent soil compaction. Maintain a 3- to 4-inch deep layer around the tree’s base, being careful to avoid piling mulch directly on the trunk.

• Properly prune to develop a balanced and well-spaced branch structure. Pruning trees while they are young is easier and allows cut surfaces to heal faster. Pruning to promote a strong framework during the first 10 years of a tree’s life will decrease long-term maintenance problems.

• If you hire someone to do your tree work, make sure they are a Certified Arborist. Untrained tree workers can do more harm than good. Visit here to find a qualified arborist near you.

TreeVitalize Pennsylvania provides more information on how to care for trees.


Identify and manage invasive plants

An “invasive plant” is a species that has become a pest, grows aggressively, spreads, and displaces other plants. Often non-native, invasive plants tend to appear on disturbed ground, but the most aggressive can actually invade intact ecosystems. Invasive plants are undesirable because they are difficult to control, can escape cultivation, and can dominate large areas, displacing native plant communities and degrading wildlife habitat.

• Learn to identify the most serious offenders. You may be surprised to know what is on the list. Are there some in your backyard? Find them here.

• Determine the best way to get rid of the invasive plant. Chopping some species at the base actually helps them grow better. Find tips here. For species-specific management advice, visit DCNR’s Invasive Plant Tutorial.

• Use native plants in the landscape to help keep the invasives at bay. Find which ones work best in your landscape.

More information on how to prevent and control invasives is found here.


Detect and treat forest pests

Pennsylvania forests suffer from several diseases and pest insects introduced from Asia and Europe.

• The gypsy moth has caused severe damage to millions of acres of oak forest since its escape from an experimental silk production project in Massachusetts in 1869.

• The hemlock wooly adelgid arrived from Asia in the Pacific Northwest in 1924 and was first found in Pennsylvania in 1967. In the ensuing decades it has spread to 50 counties, sucking the sap from the base of the needles of eastern hemlock resulting in the death of the tree.

• The latest pest species to invade Pennsylvania is the emerald ash borer, which has killed millions of ash trees from the Great Lakes states through the Midwest, and the European wood wasp now infesting pine trees in seven counties of the state.

Learn more about these and other invasive pests on our forest health web pages.


Plan for and manage your forest or woodlot

The majority of Pennsylvania’s forests—70%—are in private hands. The future of Penn’s Woods will depend on how these 12 million acres are managed. A green future starts with your forest or woodlot.

• Forests take 100 years to mature, but only a few days to forever harm. From developing a management plan to protecting streams and wildlife habitat, harvesting timber and earning income, you can learn more about taking care of your forest here.

• Contact your local DCNR service forester to learn more about managing your forest here.

• Join the Forest Stewardship Program and have a qualified natural resource professional assist you in writing a management plan for your forest. Contact your service forester or visit.

• Join your local woodland owner group to share ideas with your neighbors on how to best manage your trees and forests for the future.

• Conservation easements are an important tool in protecting important forested areas that are privately owned, providing some tax relief to the property owner and protecting the land from development. Find your local land conservancy.

• Become a trained Forest Steward and help spread the word about sustainable forest management. Learn more.


Prevent wildfires

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire which can occur in fields, grass, and brush as well as in the forest itself. A stray spark can often ignite dried grass more easily than it can start a fire in the dried leaves of the forest floor. Once started, grass and brush fires can easily spread to adjacent forest land. In Pennsylvania most wildfires occur in the months of March, April, and May. Ninety-eight percent of wildfires in Pennsylvania are caused by people.

• If you live in one of the state’s wildland urban interface—where forests meet communities—learn more about how to become a Firewise Community.

• Learn about wildfire prevention from the master—Smokey Bear. He recently turned 70, so he has lots of wisdom.

To learn more about wildfires and how to prevent them, visit the U.S. Forest Service Website here or the Pennsylvania Forestry website here.