Altoona couple earn Cambria forestry management award

Courtesy photo JoAnne and Tom Lipple receive the Cambria County Conservation District’s 2018 Conservation Forestry Management Award.

Tom Lipple has been an outdoor enthusiast for most of his life, but he has only become involved in forestry management in the relatively recent past.

In 2006, the Altoona man and his wife, JoAnne, purchased a 188-acre plot of forest ground that is located between the villages of Dysart and Dean in Cambria County, and which borders Clearfield Creek. In 2008, the Lipples, with assistance from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, obtained a Forest Stewardship Plan for the ground that eventually involved doing a one-acre wildlife opening, 20 acres of early successional habitat improvement, and four acres of forest-stand improvement.

In 2017, the Lipples contracted with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to spray 20 acres of land on the property in an effort to control the invasive autumn olive bush.

Recently, the Lipples applied with the NRCS to create habitat for a bird known as the Golden Winged Warbler on their forest land. The bird is a threatened species whose population has steadily declined over the years.

All the improvements earned the Lipples the Cambria County Conservation District’s 2018 Conservation Forestry Management Award.

Tom Lipple said that he was pleasantly surprised at being notified of the award, which he and his wife received on June 14 at the Crystal Hall in Ebensburg.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the property, but I didn’t expect (the award), to be honest with you,” Tom Lipple said. “It was gratifying. It was a pleasant surprise.”

Tom Lipple handles all of the hands-on work on the property, a fact that his wife was quick to point out when discussing the award.

“I’m really proud of the work that Tom has done,” JoAnne Lipple said. “He does all the work on the property and makes all the decisions. He works really hard in trying to develop the land.”

The Lipples were recommended for the award by representatives of both the NRCS and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.

“I’ve been a hunter and fisherman for most of my life, but I didn’t get involved in forestry management until we purchased this ground in 2006,” said Tom Lipple, 71, who retired as a vice president at Investment Savings Bank. “We purchased the ground mostly for the purpose of hunting, but then we started getting into the management end of it, and improving the property.”

After obtaining the initial Forest Stewardship Plan in 2008, Tom Lipple was referred to representatives of both the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry by local foresters.

“They were actually responsible for getting some of these programs approved,” Tom Lipple said of the reps from the NRCS and Bureau of Forestry. “They look at your ground, and they make recommendations as to what you can do to improve it, and manage the forest.”

The Lipples’ newest project will be to create habitat on 14.7 acres of their land for the Golden Winged Warbler, a small breed of bird whose population has been steadily decreasing — most likely as a result of habitat loss and competition/inbreeding with the very closely-related Blue Winged Warbler.

“We will probably start that project within the next year,” Tom Lipple said. “What we plan to do is to timber out some of the undesirable trees and leave some of the desirable ones to make the habitat better for the Golden Winged Warbler to inhabit there. I don’t think it will be a case of the birds being brought in to the property — what we will do is simply create the habitat and hope that they will nest there.”