John Hoover

Pennsylvania Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year

2011, Centre, 584

The Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year is John Hoover. My tree farm is located in Liberty and Marion Townships Centre County and partially in Porter Township, Clinton County. The present 584 acres results from purchasing smaller parcels and consolidated them with previously family owned property. The property lies between the 5900 acre Bald Eagle State Park and the 2276 acre PA State Lands #255. This larger tract benefits wildlife by providing a continuous undeveloped corridor along the face of Bald Eagle and Nittany Mountains.
About half of the current property was owned by past family members since 1865. As the 5th generation owner, I have purchased additional adjoining property when the opportunity arose. After inheriting a small share of the current property, I discovered several boundary disputes and title problems that needed immediate attention.  It took 12 years to successfully resolve these issues.  After this was completed I decided that it was necessary for me to learn how to best manage the forest resources for sustainable timber production and wildlife habitat improvement. I entered the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship program in 1994 and later applied to enroll the property in the American Tree Farm System. The property was approved for membership in December 2001 and is Pennsylvania Tree Farm # 3374.

I was brought up in Altoona, Pennsylvania, my family moved to Connecticut in 1963. I graduated high school, attended the University of New Haven, and received my degree in Mechanical Engineering in Connecticut. Living 340 miles away from the “Mountain Land”, as I refer to it, has presented many unique challenges to successfully managing this property since first acquiring a small part of it in 1978.

WILDLIFE HABITAT

Early in my efforts to improve the habitat for wildlife I discovered a high level of local interest in maintaining this property for hunting.  Many of the local residents became my friends and helped considerably in improving the wildlife habitat and in maintaining the property in general. Since I consider myself a steward of the land, I welcomed their interest and efforts since they matched my own. I started the Eagleville Hunting Preserve fifteen years ago. In exchange for attending work details or for a payment, they became members of this hunting club. I combined the funds raised with donated labor on projects to improve the habitat and forest. In exchange the members had a great place to hunt near where they lived. Their efforts have greatly improved the quality of the property. Currently I lease the hunting rights on the property to a local resident, Floyd Rupert, who continues this program. Last year there were 22 members. In addition to enjoying the hunting and fishing on the property, these members maintain the property and pay close attention to what takes place in my absence. This has allowed me to stop two previous Timber Trespass operations before much damage was done.

PAST AND FUTURE FOREST HARVESTS and WILDLIFE HABITAT PROJECTS

To achieve an uneven aged forest habitat, smaller timber harvests have been conducted in 1990, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011. Except for the aspen clear cut harvest in 1990, these have been managed by David Aumen of Aumen’s Forest and Wildlife Management. All of the harvests have been successful in promoting robust hardwood regeneration.  Over browsing of new growth by deer has never been a problem on the property. A 7 acre hardwood clear cut that was parcel in the 2000 timber sale was actually declared a deer sanctuary by the hunters. The successful regeneration likely results from the deer herd management and the accessible cropland in the Bald Eagle and Nittany Valleys.
The current 2011 harvest results from the wooly adelgid weakening all the larger Hemlock trees. I saw the outcome of the Wooley adelgid infestation in Connecticut 25 years ago when it devastated most of the hemlock stands. So I knew action was needed. My forest management plan originally set aside this old growth tract between the Nittany and Bald Eagle Mountains to be left alone and not managed for timber production. But the Wooley Adelgid infestation of this stand changed the status of this tract. After discussions with Tim Cole, PA District Service Forester, Dave Aumen and others a decision was made to mark and harvest these trees in 2011. Currently a hemlock harvest is ~70% completed on a tract that had not been harvested for well over 145 years. The logger recently removed the longest tree he has ever harvested in Pennsylvania, it was 95 feet long.
In the past 12 months several USDA soil and conservation service projects have been started. They are ANM15 Forest Stand Improvement, ANM14 Riparian Forest Buffer for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, and PLT07 Hardwood Crop Tree Release. Most of the work is completed on these projects and all are being maintained during the current timber harvest.  In the future other sustainable tree harvests will take place to increase the productivity of the land for forestry and wildlife. TSI projects on tracts where commercial harvests are not feasible will be considered in the future.
Wildlife Habitat projects were planned and completed on the property over the past 15 years. Future improvements are planned in the Quarry Area and on a small plot called Stover’s Field. The Quarry is a marginal site for forest management but surprisingly it has excellent regeneration and is frequented by wildlife. Last year a discussion with Mark Banker who was then with the Ruffed Grouse Society, provided suggestions on both of these parcels.
The reservoir was established as a fisheries habitat over 15 years ago using a written fisheries habitat management plan as a guide. Constructed in 1936 the reservoir, spillway, fencing and valve house are a special site on the property which require and receive the maintenance necessary to preserve them and protect the water resource. The spring fed reservoir pH naturally stays at 7.0 and the temperature never exceeds 70⁰ F which is ideal for brook trout. Even during the worst droughts some water flows over the spillway. It is currently stocked with trout.

SUMMARY

My goals for this property have never changed. I want each tract to be as productive as it can be to both sustain wildlife and increase its carrying capacity by either improving the habitat or letting remain as it is. At the same time forest health and productivity require periodic harvests to be sustainable. These harvests have always been conducted based on how they will increase both the quality and volume of future harvests.