When Edward Fisher and his wife, Katie, searched for a woodland property to buy in Pennsylvania, they intended to find a place to enjoy for themselves and their family. They didn’t know that the property one day would serve as a powerful place of healing for others.
The Fishers’ initial purchase of 130 acres in 2004 near Oswayo, Pennsylvania has grown over the years to 400 acres through the subsequent acquisition of contiguous properties. Approximately 30 to 40 acres of the land are fields, while the rest are woodlands. Fisher said the land represents a goal that can be traced to his childhood.
“I grew up dirt poor,” Fisher said. “My mom and dad worked hard, but we were definitely in the lower class financially. It was always my dream to buy a piece of property where my family could come and enjoy it, hunt, fish, that type of thing. We finally made that happen, and we have offered it out to our family members to come and enjoy, too. We're very blessed to have this property.”
It’s not just the Fishers’ family who have come to appreciate the property. In addition, the Fishers founded a nonprofit organization, the LEEK Hunting and Mountain Preserve, which hosts handicapped-accessible camping, hunting, fishing and outdoor activities for wounded veterans.
“Opening up to our veterans has doubled my expectations of what I thought this property would do for us,” said Fisher, an Army veteran. “It has given back tenfold what I have put into it. I get so much reward out of it, just knowing that the property is being used in a very positive way.”
Fisher said taxes on the property represents his toughest challenge to managing it, so he was appreciative of the opportunity that the Family Forest Carbon Program offered.
The program, which was developed by the American Forest Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, pays small forest holders upfront to implement climate-smart forestry practices and provides professional expertise to help ensure long-term, sustainable management of their land.
Fisher said the program’s goals of preserving the woodland aligned with his desire to protect it and ensure it remains a place that his family and wounded veterans can continue to enjoy into the future. He said foresters have helped with a 46-page management plan that has minimal impact on the land and helps preserve its long-term health. That included harvesting timber.
“They showed me that if I didn’t cut some of my trees, then I was going to lose a lot of my forest,” Fisher said.
With the guidance of foresters, Fisher selectively harvested timber from his land to open up the forest canopy and let other trees grow. He estimates that he harvested approximately 20% of a 250-acre forested parcel of land – “just enough to maintain good forest growth,” he said.
“It was absolutely a great experience, and I got just what I wanted out of it,” Fisher said. “They came in, cut and did great job, and helped me to manage my land as best as possible while being in accordance with the Family Forest Carbon Program.”
Not only did the commercial harvest fall within the parameters of his participation in the carbon program, but he made additional revenue off his forest products. Fisher said it is important to him that the program provides guidance rather than micromanagement of his land, showing respect for his perspective as a property owner.
“I appreciate the carbon program coming in and helping out and enabling me to do a little more with my property,” Fisher said. “I’ve really benefited from their management practices and the forester they assigned to me. I'm very glad that I joined the carbon program, not only for myself, but for my forest. We’ve put a lot into this piece of property, and it's nice when the land gets back to you. I've been able to do that with the carbon program.”
Reflecting on two decades of ownership of his land, Fisher said the experience has simply been “amazing.” The family has built a house with a deck on it, and he revels in the view of the valley that his family owns, manages, protects – and shares.
“Being able to share this with others has been really satisfying, and I’m excited we can continue to do that,” he said. “That’s what really gives me the most enjoyment.”
When you enroll in the Family Forest Carbon Program, you'll receive a complimentary visit from a forester, and a forest management plan to improve the health of your woodlands. Find out more today.
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