Bald Eagle Area School District has something not many other districts have — more than 400 acres of district-owned forest land.
And after six years in the making, a former district employee is seeing through a plan he was involved with from the start — to keep that land sustainable — an idea supported by the nine-member school board.
Former district food service director and current board member of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association Mark Ott said he’s a longtime advocate of promoting sustainable forestry.
“We have a great resource in this state, and that is being cut up into small plots,” he said. “I’m trying to stop that in Pennsylvania.”
BEA gets a $10,000 donation
On Wednesday afternoon, the district received a $10,000 donation from Domtar Paper Company, which is helping oversee a plan drafted to keep the land sustainable for forestry use.
That plan, Ott said, will be written by a consulting forester and should be done in about a year.
It all started when a logger approached former BEA superintendent Dan Fisher.
“He said, ‘Well, you should probably cut down all the ash in the forest here because it’s all going to die anyway’,” Ott said. “That’s probably true, but at the same time we needed a forestry plan before you bring in a logger into your woods like a fox in a hen house. You just don’t do that. You get a plan and a consulting forester to watch over the logger, and align a plan that encompasses what the school wants.”
Specialists doing a forest inventory
Mike Eckley, a forester with The Nature Conservancy, said inventory is already underway to assess timber, plant species and habitat. Specialists are also documenting unique features of the land that will help derive a management plan.
The long-term plan is to create educational opportunities, including a new forest program as part of the agriculture education department, create cross-county trails and a harvest every 10 to 15 years, Ott said.
“The goal is not to demolish it, but if it called for a clear-cut, they would make sure what’s coming back up would be good, and what could possibly be sold would go back into the district,” Ott said. “But the opportunities are endless. Just use your imagination with what you can do.”