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Pursue Excellence in the Management of State Park and Forest Lands
Infrastructure Investment. DCNR seeks to assure public safety and enjoyment in state parks and forest by maintaining its infrastructure, one of the largest systems in the state.

Highlights in 2015 include:

  • The Bureaus of State Parks and Facility, Design and Construction partnered to make repairs to the Lake Jean Dam Control Tower at Ricketts Glen State Park. While the lake was drawn down, state parks completed a fish habitat improvement project that included fish cribbing and other habitat modifications to the dry lakebed;
  • Pymatuning Dam Renovation project Began Mid-May 2015. Water control tower and Dam renovations will utilize over $8 million in project funds. H20 Grant is funding the project;
  • The shooting range at Little Pine State Park was reopened in 2015 following an extensive lead remediation and range redesign project;
  • Design work began on the new Hickory Run State Park office complex.

State Forest Resource Management Plan Draft: The State Forest Resource Management Plan (SFRMP) is the primary instrument used by the Bureau of Forestry to plan, coordinate and communicate its management of the state forest system. By relating the broad policies of the bureau’s strategic plan to focused goals and objectives, and specific operational guidelines, the SFRMP lays the groundwork for ensuring the overarching goal of state forest management—sustainability—is achieved. The bureau developed its first written statewide forest management plan for Pennsylvania’s state forests in 1955. This plan was subsequently revised in 1970, 1985, 2003 and 2007. The 2015 SFRMP revision process continues the agency's ongoing adaptation to changing ecological, social and economic conditions.

Public involvement is a critical component of the bureau’s planning process. Initial planning for the 2015 SFRMP revision began with a public opinion survey drawing more than 4,000 responses. The bureau developed numerous avenues for the public to provide input on the draft 2015 SFRMP, with 12 public meetings held across the across the state for direct interaction with stakeholders. The latest management plan provides a broad framework from which the bureau can develop future district-level plans focusing on local resources and values, and incorporating increased public input.

Forest Management Certification: Pennsylvania state forests are certified by Scientific Certification Systems under Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC) standards. The FSC® is an independent organization supporting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests. Timber harvested from Pennsylvania's state forests is FSC® certified. An independent environmental review team conducted an audit in September 2015 to determine if state forestlands continue to be well-managed. The review team praised the Bureau of Forestry for exemplary practices, issuing no corrective action requests. Instead, it highlighted strong management practiced by the bureau. The final audit report was provided in October 2015. State forest districts visited in this year’s annual audit were: Rothrock, Bald Eagle, Weiser and Pinchot.

Timber Management: In 2015 the Bureau of Forestry contracted for the harvesting of approximately 15,392 acres of timber on state forestland. These contracts have a value of about $23 million in revenue for the commonwealth, and supplied raw materials for an estimated $400 million in private-sector economic activity. The timber harvesting program provides renewable wood products to consumers; helps support local jobs and industry; creates early successional forests to enhance wildlife populations; and helps maintain healthy forests.

Wildfire Protection: Pennsylvania had a moderately active wildfire season, resulting in approximately 800 wildfires reported, affecting 4,100 acres. The two largest wildfires occurred in Carbon County—the Razor and Pipeline fires, consuming 848 acres and 674 acres, respectively. Wildfire suppression activity:

Pennsylvania dispatched over 200 resources comprising seven 20-person fire crews, two wildland fire engines, and 50 specially qualified individuals to wildfire emergencies throughout Alaska and several western states during the summer of 2015. Personnel responded to incidents in Alaska, California, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Approximately 50 controlled burns were conducted to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forestlands on approximately 1,200 acres of DCNR-managed lands. The department conducted wildfire-related training for more than 3,500 firefighters in 2015.

A total of 156 volunteer fire departments received grants for equipment acquisition and training totaling almost $600,000; and fire departments were loaned fire equipment worth $1 million under federal excess equipment programs.

Natural Gas Development: Near the end of 2015, approximately 646 Marcellus Shale wells were drilled on state forestland that are capable of producing natural gas to generate royalties to the state. Activity occurred on leases awarded in 2010 and prior years and on river lands leases.

On Jan. 29, Governor Wolf issued Executive Order No. 2015-03 regarding leasing of state forest and state park land for oil and gas development. Subject to future advice and recommendations made by DCNR, no state park and state forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development so long as this executive order remains in effect.

Total oil and gas lease fund revenues for 2015 were approximately $81 million in 2015. As a result of low natural gas prices, many state forest natural gas lessees made the decision to shut in gas wells rather than produce gas at a loss.

Eight publicly owned streambed oil and gas leases on 640 acres were issued in 2015, totaling $2.5 million in bonus revenue.

Over the course of 2015, 15 state forest oil and gas leases totaling nearly 40,000 acres were terminated and taken out of lease status for failing to meet the terms of the lease contracts. In most cases, operators were unable to drill a first well within the five- year primary term of the lease, and because of the low natural gas price climate, the operators had no plans to drill additional wells in the near future.

Deer Management: A total of 16 state forest districts and 23 state parks offered additional deer hunting opportunities this year through the Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program, or DMAP. DMAP. Forest district managers opened more than 400 miles of roads prior to the start of deer season. Roughly 90 percent of all state forestlands could be accessed within one-half mile of a drivable road.

Continuing from 2013, DMAP units in Bald Eagle, Rothrock and Susquehannock state forests remained part of a collaborative study among DCNR; Game Commission; Pennsylvania State University; and the U.S. Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. In addition to monitoring hunter experiences in the study areas, the project will weigh the importance of deer density; competing vegetation; silvicultural treatments; seed sources; and other factors adversely affecting forest tree regeneration and plant species composition. As a result, changes in enrollment status and number of DMAP permits will continue in units within these areas.

January 6, 2016

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