On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Woman speaks for the trees as forestry advocate

July 31, 2013 

Susan Benedict cares about healthy trees, and not just because it’s her family business.

Benedict and her brother, Michael Shoemaker, manage the Beartown Tree Farm in Snow Shoe and Union townships, a 2,087-acre tract bought and farmed first by their grandfather in 1943.

In part for outstanding forestry and land management practices, Benedict received the Pennsylvania 2012 Tree Farmer of the Year award on behalf of her family partners, including her husband, Leroy, and three sons, Jacob, Lewis and Zachary.

But her outreach and advocacy efforts — on top of a full-time job as a controller for a local real estate company — also helped garner the award.

A certified Pennsylvania Forest Steward, Benedict sits on the boards of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, the Pennsylvania Tree Farmers Association, Penn State Extension and the Woodland Owners of Centre County.

In addition, she’s on the national public affairs committee of the American Forest Foundation.

“I like to say that I like to be an advocate for forests and speak for them because they can’t speak for themselves,” Benedict said.

The public can see her handiwork up close Aug. 17 during the Woodlot Management: Tree Farm Field Day, sponsored by the Beartown Family Partnership and Penn State Extension-Centre County.

Because of the award and Benedict’s work, the farm was selected as the host for the annual field day, said Dave Jackson, a forest resources educator with Penn State Extension-Centre County.

“It’s really a recognition of all her efforts,” he said.

Running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the event will include separate walking and driving tours of the property, which sits at the headwaters of Beech Creek and contains prominent sandstone formations.

Tours will examine various topics such as water quality in a forested watershed, deer exclosures, pollinator habitat enhancement, trail cameras to help with wildlife management and timber salvage from gypsy moth infestation.

Also planned are presentations and discussions about protecting water, soil and wildlife while developing natural gas and wind energy resources. Benedict serves as chairwoman of the Centre County Natural Gas Task Force, advocating for responsible drilling to minimize environmental impacts.

“Forests are very important to overall world health,” she said, “and so in this little corner of the world, I think it’s very important to promote good forestry management because of the clean water, opportunity for carbon storage, clean air, all those environmental services that forests provide that we don’t think about.”

Registration for the field day, limited to 60, is $20 and ends Aug. 12. The fee includes lunch. To register or find out more, call Penn State Extension at 355-4897 or visit http://agsci.psu.edu/woodlot-management.

Benedict, who invites Boy Scouts and other groups to the farm to learn about the outdoors, welcomes another chance to show the land and stewardship that earned her a Chesapeake Forest Champion award in 2011 from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

“We’ve worked hard and our forest is very healthy,” she said. “What I get out of it personally is it’s just so neat to walk in a healthy ecosystem and see all the parts that should be there. All the plants and animals are there.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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