Stories in Pennsylvania

Appalachian Forests

We’re protecting one of the most resilient, diverse and carbon-rich landscapes in the world. But we can't do it alone.

A golden sun touches on tall, narrow, fall colored trees in a forest.
Rothrock State Forest Fall forest colors at the Alan Seeger Natural Area of Rothrock State Forest. © Nicholas Tonelli

The Appalachians are home to a rich variety of plant and animal species—80,000 occurrences of rare species can be found along the 2,000-mile-long mountain range—as well as diverse communities and cultures. Today, at least 22 million people call the region home, and millions more rely on the clean water and air provided by the expansive forests for their health, livelihoods, and recreation.

However, growing threats from urban development, mining, agriculture, unsustainable forestry, and fragmentation put the region’s public, economic and ecological health at risk. At present, just 26% of this globally important landscape is protected. Climate change further exacerbates these issues. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events are altering and destroying habitats, causing plants and animals to shift their ranges northward and to higher elevations. Nature is on the move and seeking refuge in the Appalachians.

Two tall and wide pine trees stand on a snowy ground in the forest.
Snowfall at Salt Springs Hemlocks in snow fall at Brook Natural Area in Salt Springs State Park © Nicholas Tonelli

Hemlocks in snow fall at Brook Natural Area in Salt Springs State Park

To combat these threats in Pennsylvania, TNC continues to work with partners on strategic land protection efforts to protect migratory pathways and areas of high biodiversity, particularly along the Kittatinny Ridge at our Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain preserve, and along the Allegheny Front. Our conservation strategy in the Appalachians takes a three-pronged approach: protection, restoration and improved management. Science guides our protection efforts to lands that will create climate-resilient corridors.

In places where Appalachian forests have been degraded, we work with partners and volunteers to restore the lands and waters critical to people and nature. At our dozens of nature preserves and other land holdings across the Appalachians, TNC implements best management practices that improve ecological conditions and serve as demonstration sites for our public and private landowner partners whom we want to see adopt similar practices.

Kittatinny Ridge

A vista point over looking mountains dense with green trees. A heavy fog sits at the base of the mountains.
Kittatinny Ridge A view of Sherman's Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River located in Perry County, from the Hawk Rock overlook in Duncannon, Pennsylvania. © Eric Krukowski

The Kittatinny Ridge is part of an unbroken chain of forested mountains forming a vital link in the 1,500-mile-long Appalachian Mountain Range—a mosaic of rugged topography and varied elevation that makes it one of the most diverse habitats on Earth. 

Identified as the most resilient landscape in the state for adapting to climate change, this forested corridor provides an incredibly biodiverse superhighway that allows wildlife to move safely within and between climate-resilient neighborhoods to escape rising temperatures, increased floods, or drought. Scientists have identified it as critical to the future of hundreds of animal and bird species amid a changing climate.

To safeguard the Kittatinny’s mostly intact wildlife superhighway, TNC is working with landowners and partners to protect these critical, connected lands on and next to the ridge.

Sun shines peaks through a forest lined with tall thin trees and dense fog.
Canaan Valley Sun shines down into an Appalachian forest. © Kent Mason

Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain

Several large boulders sit in a body of water in front of mountain filled with lush green trees.
Cove Mountain Sunset Cove Mountain as seen from the east bank of the Susquehanna River at sunset. © Matt Kane/TNC

The Hamer Woodlands at Cove Mountain is located in Perry County, a region of Pennsylvania where land protection plays a critical role in local economies that depend on outdoor recreation.

This 1,379-acre preserve is a globally recognized southwest-to-northeast migratory corridor for species movement and helps fill a gap between existing conservation lands, creating a 14-mile stretch of protected land along the Kittatinny Ridge.

Since acquiring this property, The Nature Conservancy has developed a forestry management plan to improve the ecological conditions of the land to help ensure this chain of forests is one of the most important landscapes for climate adaptation in Pennsylvania.

A red and black bird sits perched on the branch of a tree with large green leaves.
Baltimore Oriole A Baltimore Oriole rests in a tree at the Cove Mountain Preserve. © Shawn Hickey/The Nature Conservancy

Working Woodlands

A person in an orange vest tags trees with a bright orange ribbon in a forest.
Tree Tagging A member of The Nature Conservancy's staff in Pennsylvania tags trees identified by the Working Woodlands program. © George C. Gress

TNC's Working Woodlands program helps landowners ensure that their forests remain healthy, productive and profitable for future generations. 

Landowners who enroll their forest in TNC's Working Woodlands program enter into a forest management plan that focuses on creating a diverse, native ecosystem that is capable of withstanding current and future forest threats that are exacerbated by a changing climate.

A forester wearing a red vest uses spray paint to mark a tree in the forest. A tree in the foreground has already been tagged with a blue paint mark.
Working woodlands Measuring and marking trees, Lock Haven, PA. © Melissa Farlow

Once a forest management plan is in place, the forest can provide a stable and predictable source of income for the landowner through sustainable timber harvesting and carbon credit sales tied to the additional carbon that will be stored by the forest.

As the Working Woodlands easement holder, TNC receives a percentage of the income generated by the forest, which goes entirely back into work that advances the protection, management and restoration of PA's forests. Businesses that participate in the Working Woodlands program through the purchase of carbon offset credits are only eligible to participate if they are also working to reduce their own carbon emissions resulting from business operations.

In a landscape like Pennsylvania, where the forests we enjoy today were clear-cut within the last 150 years, the value of longterm and permanent land protection that comes along with a Working Woodlands easement will keep our forests healthy for future generations to enjoy.

A map of Pennsylvania showing TNC priority landscape areas outlined and highlighted in green.
Resilient & Connected Networks Science guided the creation of TNC’s Resilient and Connected Network goals across the Appalachians. This map shows our priority landscapes in Pennsylvania, where we’re focusing our land protection efforts, Working Woodlands projects, and Family Forest Carbon Program enrollment. © TNC

Science guided the creation of TNC’s Resilient and Connected Network goals across the Appalachians. This map shows our priority landscapes in Pennsylvania, where we’re focusing our land protection efforts, Working Woodlands projects, and Family Forest Carbon Program enrollment.

Looking up into the canopy of white ash trees. Thick fog clings to the branches and the trees golden leaves.
White Ash trees White Ash Trees in morning fog and mist near Keller Reservoir and surrounding woodlands, Pennsylvania. © Melissa Farlow

Woodlands at Work in Central PA

Over the years, the Borough of Duncannon, located just outside Harrisburg, regularly harvested timber on a 1,620-acre forested property to generate money for the community. The property also boasts popular local hikes, like the Hawk Rock Overlook on the Appalachian Trail. Over time, invasive and exotic species like striped maple, mile-a-minute vine and the tree of heaven took over the native trees, leaving the forest compromised and lacking its former vitality.

Enter TNC. We worked with the Borough to enroll the property in the Working Woodlands program, with the aim of transforming it into a more diverse, resilient native forest ecosystem capable of standing up to current—and future—forest threats exacerbated by a changing climate. With a forest management plan in place, the forest will once again generate timber revenue.

Working Woodlands & the Bethlehem Water Authority (3:56) Learn more about how TNC is partnering with the Bethlehem Water Authority to ensure that PA forests remain healthy, productive, and profitable for future generations.

Pennsylvania Guidelines: Enrolling in the Working Woodland Program

The Working Woodlands program requires a minimum of 2,000 forested acres in Pennsylvania. To learn more about enrolling your property in Working Woodlands, click here, or contact: 

Barry Ulrich, Director
Working Woodlands Program

The Family Forest Carbon Program

Several tall and thin trees and green ferns grow in rows through a forest.
A Healthy Forest Several native ferns and Spruce trees grow in a healthy Pennsylvania forest. © Matt Kane/TNC

The Family Forest Carbon Program (FFCP) is a partnership of the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), working with leading state and federal agencies, businesses and America’s 21 million family forest owners to mitigate climate change on a global scale.


A little girl holds her arms out for balance as she walks along the wide trunk of a fallen tree.
Family in forest Children play in their family-owned forest. © Melissa Farlow

Family forest owners, who own 39% of forests in the United States, are a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining and improving carbon sequestration. Despite their valuable experience, many family forest owners are currently locked out of carbon markets and are often unable to realize the true potential of their land. Many family forest owners struggle with technical expertise and high costs when it comes to optimizing their land for carbon sequestration.

The FFCP incentivizes specific forest management practices which have been scientifically demonstrated to enhance carbon sequestration, improve forest health and provide other important ecosystem benefits. The implementation of these practices across a known acreage will result in sequestration reportable in tons.

How it Works

The FFCP is designed to remove one of the most significant barriers for family forest owners to sustainably manage their forests: the high cost of forest of management activities. The program also provides technical assistance and professional guidance to landowners on the best options for their forests. Learn why the DeSeve family decided to enroll their 100-acre forested parcel in the Poconos in the Family Forest Carbon Program by clicking here.

It also removes one of the most significant barriers that keeps family forest owners from accessing existing carbon markets by lowering traditionally high transaction costs. Because the FFCP monitors practices instead of calculating carbon on each forest parcel, which is resource-intensive to continually inventory and monitor, we reduce the transaction costs to landowners by at least 75%.

Three people stand together on the edge of a gravel road that extends into the horizon behind them.
Family Forest Carbon Program Forest owner, Susan Benedict, works with TNC staff to learn more about enrolling land into the Family Forest Carbon Program. © American Forest Foundation

By opening up new markets for family forest owners who own 30 to 2,400 acres of forestland, greater numbers of these landowners can participate and create income, all while making a significant contribution to the nation’s climate mitigation strategy. This new model of climate finance is an innovative way to provide rural landowners with the funding required to sustainably manage their forests.

The program will produce valid and scientifically defensible carbon claims at a landscape scale, while also delivering many environmental co-benefits, like wildlife habitat and water quality. We will verify our results through a random sampling of properties that will receive full, on-the-ground monitoring, which will improve the modeling over time.

How to Get Involved

The Family Forest Carbon Program offers a unique opportunity for family forest owners to do what is best for their land while getting paid for it. By bringing more landowners into the market for carbon, foresters and local partners have a new path to reach their goals for private forest management, conservation outcomes and improving the health and resiliency of landscapes in their regions. Together, we can have a significant impact on local economies, ecosystems and global climate mitigation efforts.

For information on how to check your property’s eligibility, please check here.


Appalachians Program Overview

Learn how the Appalachians provide opportunities to tackle the intertwined climate & biodiversity crises while benefiting local communities.



Working Woodland Program

Learn more about the Working Woodland Program.