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Forests and Trees

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation named for its forests. “Pennsylvania” translates from Latin to “Penn’s Woods.”

Forests blanket more than 60 percent (17 million acres) of the commonwealth, from the deep forests of the northern tier “big woods,” to the forested ridges of the south, and to the woodlots and urban and community forests scattered in between.

These forests provide incalculable values and benefits to Pennsylvania citizens and beyond. They filter and protect drinking water and thousands of miles of streams. They provide critical habitat for plants and animals.

They sequester carbon and clean our air. They provide places for us to marvel in the scenic beauty of landscape and a wide range of recreational opportunities, such as:

  • Hunting
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Fall foliage viewing

They grow some of the finest hardwood timber in the world, fueling a $20 billion wood products industry that directly employs 60,000 people. Far beneath the soil, they yield a home-grown energy source of natural gas.

Our Forests

Most of Pennsylvania’s forest lands fall into two types:

  • Mixed oak forests cover about 54 percent of the commonwealth -- mostly in the south -- and include trees such as northern red oak, chestnut oak, shagbark hickory, red maple, and tulip poplar.
  • Northern hardwoods cover about 32 percent of Pennsylvania, mostly in the high elevations of the north. Common trees include sugar maple, black cherry, aspen, birch, hemlock, and ash.

Who Owns Penn’s Woods?

The forests of Pennsylvania provide benefits to society while having diverse ownership patterns:

  • 70 percent -- or 12 million acres -- are privately held by approximately 750,000 landowners. 
  • 30 percent -- or 5 million acres -- are publicly owned by either the federal, state, or local governments. 
  • The 2.2 million-acre state forest system, managed sustainably for current and future generations by the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, is the largest single landholding in the commonwealth.

Conserving Penn’s Woods

DCNR's Bureau of Forestry is charged with conserving the forests and native wild plants of the commonwealth. The bureau accomplishes this by:

  • Managing the state forest system sustainably for a variety of ecological, economic, and recreational values
  • Protecting the forests of the commonwealth from damage from wildfire and destructive insects and diseases
  • Promoting forestry and the stewardship of the commonwealth’s forest resources
  • Protecting and managing native wild plants

For more details about how DCNR is conserving Penn's Woods, reference the Bureau of Forestry's strategic plan: Penn's Woods Sustaining Our Forests (PDF).

Forest Inventories

The U.S. Forest Service is the nation's forest "census taker." Its Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program provides a comprehensive inventory and analysis of the present and prospective conditions of forests and rangelands. The Pennsylvania's Forests 2009 FIA Report (PDF) is the most recent.