Woodmobile’s lesson: Wood important to Pennsylvania

By BRIAN FERRY

bferry@timesobserver.com

Third graders from all over Warren and Forest counties made paper, hid from foxes, and met William Penn on Tuesday.

For at least 10 years, the Allegheny Hardwoods Utilization Group (AHUG) has brought its Woodmobile Program to Warren County Fairgrounds through a partnership with the Forest-Warren Higher Education Council’s School-to-Work program.

There students hear from a number of presenters representing industry and state and federal agencies about the importance of forests and the timber industry to the region and the world.

Evan Corondi dressed as William Penn on Tuesday and introduced students to some of the history of their home state. “I wanted to call the area New Wales,” Corondi as Penn said. “The king wanted to let people know he was paying a debt to my father” and the state became known as Pennsylvania – Penn’s Woods.

“We are the only state in the United States that is named for its forest,” Corondi said.

In the 1600s and 1700s, most of the trees here were softwoods. “We had to cut down a lot of our forests… to help build the nation,” he said. “We cut down too much too quickly.”

Although there were few trees left, the clearing left space for hardwoods to grow to replace the softwoods.

“Hardwoods are better at making oxygen,” Corondi said.

“We want to make sure we protect them,” he said. “One way we protect them is by cutting them down. We harvest those big, mature trees. We have little baby trees in their place.”

“They’re a renewable resource,” Corondi explained. “We can reuse them as long as we do it responsibly.”

Corondi also spoke to the students, not in his Penn costume, inside the Woodmobile trailer. He talked about wood products and some of the invasive species that threaten our forests. The emerald ash borer could destroy as much as 7 percent of the state’s forest – all of its ash trees. Among other things, Pennsylvania ash is used to make the majority of the bats used in Major League Baseball.

The Asian longhorn beetle, unlike the ash borer, threatens multiple hardwood species. While particularly fond of maple, it will move on to other trees, Corondi said. He said as much as 40 percent of the state’s trees are in danger if the beetle arrives.

There were other presentations by AHUG members, and representatives of the Allegheny National Forest, Chapman State Park, Drake Well Museum, and Pennsylvania Game Commission. EJ the DJ provided entertainment, emcee services, and music.

Third graders from all Warren County School District schools, West Forest, and Warren County home school students attended either the morning or afternoon session.

They learned about predator-prey relationships, blending into the environment, and the food chain; the Allegheny National Forest – Forest of Many Uses; wildlife management; 15-minute paper making; forest careers; sources of energy; and others.