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Promote Responsible Stewardship of the Commonwealth's Natural Resources
Forest Conservation: The Forest Conservation initiative is designed to foster a stewardship ethic across the important landscapes of the state that will eventually result in: a positive view of forests, resource issues, forest benefits, and forest management; better on-the-ground choices being made; and better awareness of, and positive action taken on, forest resource issues among public officials. Currently 580,367 acres are covered under stewardship plans. New stewardship plans were implemented for 17,367 acres in 2015. According to yearly monitoring of some of these plans, more than 90 percent are managed according to plans for federal fiscal year 2015. During the past year, 2,524 landowners participated in landowner education programs and 6,743 landowners received various forms of technical assistance from the Bureau of Forestry.

Invasive species and forest pest management: In 2015, gypsy moth populations increased dramatically in eastern Pennsylvania. DCNR treated 26,433 acres in 38 spray blocks in May in six northeastern counties. Treatment areas were all private residential lands, state parks, state forestlands and Pa. Game Commission lands. A fungus and virus of the gypsy moth is responsible for causing the populations to decline in western Pennsylvania. However, surveys across the state indicate gypsy moth populations are increasing and have the potential to cause defoliation in 2016, especially in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. A 124,863-acre suppression program in 339 treatment blocks is proposed for 2016 in twenty counties (Berks, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Leigh, Luzerne, Mifflin, Monroe, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, and Union), on private residential lands, state parks, state forests, state game lands, and federal lands.

Gypsy moth defoliation in 2015 totaled 691,852 acres, and another 229,114 acres were defoliated by the fall cankerworm and oak leaf roller. Aerial and ground surveys indicated a total of more than 1 million acres of damage by forest pests in 2015, up from 431,956 acres of damage in 2014.

The Bureau of Forestry implemented several federally-funded projects on non-native invasive species in 2015. Among them: continuing an emerald ash borer management program in communities, parks and state forests.

The hemlock woolly adelgid, a pervasive insect threat that has killed thousands of hemlocks across the state, was detected in the spring of 2013 in Cook Forest State Park, Clarion County, and Clear Creek State Park in neighboring Jefferson County. Home to the most significant Eastern hemlock stand north of the Smoky Mountains, Cook Forest State Park is famous for its old-growth trees. It’s “Forest Cathedral” of towering hemlock and white pine is a National Natural Landmark. DCNR has embarked on a two-pronged treatment effort (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/index.aspx that relies on selective application of insecticides and the release of predatory beetles. The department is partnering with the USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and other interested organizations to implement an eastern hemlock management plan for northwestern Pennsylvania. In addition, the bureau has completed a hemlock conservation plan for the state.

The first Invasive Plant Training Workshop was held in Tiadaghton State Forest in June and featured classroom instruction; field identification training in small groups; and a field practicum encouraging participants to apply what they learned to complete invasive plant surveys in and around gas infrastructure.

The Bureau of Forestry has continued monitoring invasive plant infestations in areas affected by Marcellus Shale activity, and has implemented both prioritization and an Early Detection Rapid Response program for treating those infestations. As of 2015, all gas well pads have been surveyed for invasive species, showing 80 percent of well pads have invasive plants growing on the edges.

In state parks, the Resources Management and Field Services Section (RMFSS) provided three management updates, covering wildlife management, research and permitting, prescribed fire, hazardous trees and other topics. Also, the team conducted three trainings for certified applicators, managers and maintenance staff on invasive species suppression practices and safe herbicide application practices.

RMFSS continues to work with field managers to mediate damage from forest invasive insects such as hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer. In 2015, the bureau contracted treatment of hemlock woolly adelgid at Cook Forest State Park. Other sites within the state park system were treated and financed through USFS funding sources.

The RMPD team added five new sites to the list of parks with comprehensive invasive species management plans. State parks with plans include Black Moshannon, Colonel Denning, Prince Gallitzin, Laurel Hill, Poe Valley and Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center. The bureau now has over 550 acres protected from invasive species by FSS and PSU.

Land Conservation: The Bureau of Forestry acquired approximately 25,800 acres of land in 2015 that enhance, connect, and conserve state forest land. This included the bureau’s largest acquisition since the 1950s—a 17,000-acre tract in McKean County.

Within the Bureau of State Parks, the Hemlock Natural Area at Laurel Hill State Park was recognized officially as part of the Old Growth Forest Network; at French Creek State Park, ground was broken for the Big Woods multi-use trail section between Hopewell National Historical Park and the state park, and a bid was awarded for construction of the Schuylkill River Trail connection. The park also added 54 acres with the help of National Lands Trust to create accessibility to Horseshoe Tray.

Other state park land acquisitions included: Codorus, 46.7 acres; Prompton, 28.8; M.K. Goddard, .7; Little Pine, 2; Shikellamy, 82; and Presque Isle, 5.

PNDI Upgrade: DCNR and the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program have begun a major upgrade of the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) environmental review tool. Planned improvements include faster and more efficient editing and updating; more efficient and effective project planning; more visible species habitat data to promote better project planning and fewer conflicts with rare, threatened, endangered and special concern species; online project submissions; sharing project information electronically across all jurisdictional agencies, eliminating the need for applicants to send up to four hard copies of the same information; and the ability for users to modify previously submitted projects.

Staying Connected: To engage citizens using new communications tools, DCNR uses Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts to interact with more than 300,000 followers and friends. In 2015, the department launched new Facebook and Instagram accounts that now have a combined 5,000 followers, and growing. Those who want to be in the “DCNR know” follow @DCNRNews Twitter account for daily updates on agency happenings. The account doubled its reach in 2015, with now more than 4,590 followers. At the end of 2014, the Pa. state parks Facebook account surpassed 59,000 followers, aided by trivia and abundant quality photos. Plans include making DCNR’s website and electronic newsletter resource mobile-friendly to respond to the growing number of customers using mobile devices to access news and interact with government agencies.

Interactive maps and story maps promote recreation; provide a wealth of information about state parks and forests; and help DCNR provide critical information about specific issues and initiatives, such as shale gas drilling and important sinkhole information. The maps continued to see a great deal of traffic over the year with 900,000 hits being seen on all combined. Traffic to the maps peaked during spring and summer with 115,000 hits and 3,800 sets of driving directions per month being generated.

Just in time for Labor Day, the new Explore PA Local Parks website and interactive map was released, promoting more than 5,600 local parks across the state. Users can find parks nearby or by name, county or municipality and discover amenity information, driving directions and even provide critical feedback to help improve the data.

The Pennsylvania Geologic Data Explorer (PaGEODE) saw several critical enhancements this year increasing usability and functionality. This application allows users to find and download 800+ electronic geologic publications, discover a wealth of geologic information about PA in over 25 data layers, and view standardized template maps in an interactive manner.

The Hunting in PA State Forest interactive map not only provided a great deal of information to hunters and about hunting regulations, but was a critical resource to assist with hunting related topics. The map provides information about roads open during deer season and bear check stations, as well as various habitats conducive to certain species of wildlife, season and bag limit information, and antler restrictions. Finally the DCNR Story Maps continued to see steady traffic and gained a great deal of positive attention. The maps saw various improvements over the year and a new story map was released presenting LEED certified buildings in PA State Parks and Forests.

DCNR is also transitioning the methods in which location-based data is being collected, and this really started to take off in 2015. The department is taking advantage of the ESRI Collector App which allows staff to use mobile devices to collect a wide variety of location information as well as characteristics (including pictures and videos) about the locations. This was used to complete the over 1,300 required grant site inspections which involves users capturing a wide variety of site related information that is automatically used to generate standardized forms and letters to fulfill federal requirements.

The Division of Forest Health also is taking advantage of the Collector app to inventory gypsy moth egg masses and hemlock wooly adelgid locations, which significantly helps in analyzing these pest species and targeting locations for remediation. Related to this, the Aerial Treatment Request (ATR) process whereby landowners request gypsy moth spraying on their property was completely transformed to using the Collector app in 2015. A previously labor-intensive process with many steps was greatly streamlined by the Collector app. Like the other programs mentioned above, the data comes into DCNR on an almost real-time basis and “syncs” with DCNR internal applications and databases allowing mapping, analysis and reporting to occur almost real-time. This has greatly improved department efficiencies and reduced cost, and there are plans for the adoption of Collector apps for several others programs in 2016.

Outdoor Programming Services/Youth Engagement: More than 420,000 people participated in state park educational programs, including over 57,000 who learned outdoor recreational skills such as kayaking, snowshoeing, and geocaching. The bureau offered 102 teacher workshops on songbirds, biodiversity, watersheds, hiking, connecting preschoolers to nature, Project Learning Tree, Project Wild, GPS, raptors, nature play, and more, and provided 2,877 programs for 106,523 school students.

Youth Camps: DCNR offers youth many opportunities to engage in healthful outdoor recreation and to immerse themselves in multi-model environmental learning. Two such opportunities occur for youth during the summer. DCNR’s Adventure Camp aims to bridge the gap between Pennsylvania’s urban youth and the outdoors by engaging young people (age 13-15) and local community organizations in a week-long camp full of exciting and meaningful outdoor experiences in state and local parks and forests. In 2015, DCNR hosted seven camps in cooperation with numerous partners such as Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and various community parks and recreation departments. These camps reached more than 100 youth who participated in activities such as kayaking, biking, archery, hiking and more.

Also, DCNR’s Exploring Careers Outdoors Camp (ECO Camp) introduces Pennsylvania high school students to careers in the natural resource and conservation fields. This week-long residential camp immerses participates in the real-world, hands-on work of DCNR professionals. Students interact with professionals in the field, experience some of their job duties, and are assigned a DCNR staff mentor to guide them as they hopefully pursue a career in the natural resource or conservation field. Every year DCNR accepts 20 highly talented and motivated young people for ECO Camp. To date, approximately 1,200 youth have experienced a DCNR youth education camp.

DCNR produces a bi-weekly, electronic newsletter, resource, leading to direct, and continuous contact with almost 5,000 interested readers. A readership survey recently was undertaken to fine-tune content and presentation. In addition to numerous other venues, DCNR has large exhibit areas at the annual Pa. Farm and Great American Outdoor shows.

Natural Resource Inventory, Protection and Maintenance: The PAMAP program provides high resolution aerial photography and elevation data for Pennsylvania. Heavy use of the PAMAP data by all segments of government, industry and the general population attests to the usefulness of these standard base map products. Demand for up-to-date imagery is high. Through our partnership with the USGS, DCNR obtained new lidar elevation data for Lancaster and York Counties. The data was collected in December of 2014, processed and delivered in 2015. This data collection was funded through a project related to recovery from Hurricane Sandy. New orthophotos were collected under a USGS project during 2015 for York, Lehigh and part of Chester counties. Processing is in progress and data should be available in early 2016.

Seismic Monitoring Network: DCNR has contracted with Penn State since early 2013 to operate a network of permanent and temporary seismic stations placed across the state, and to provide a catalog of activity through June 2015. In July 2015, DCNR and DEP joined together to contract with Penn State to upgrade the network to a 30-station permanent real-time network for monitoring seismicity across Pennsylvania.

Oil and Gas Well Record System: Previously called PA*IRIS/WIS, this publicly available database is being modernized and substantially upgraded to take advantage of current technology. The document management portion of the new system, EDWIN – the Exploration and Development Well Information Network – was launched in June 2015. Named in honor of “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake, who struck oil in Titusville on August 27, 1859, EDWIN provides users online access to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s 170,000+ wells of record. As this modernization project is being implemented in phases, our database configuration, migration, and testing will continue through early 2016.

Natural Resource Data: DCNR is replacing the current PNDI tool with a site that includes both a conservation planning and PNDI environmental review component. The PA Conservation Explorer provides greater access to conservation information, leading to better, more informed planning and reduced project impacts.

The PA Conservation Explorer will include visible conservation information to support project planning as well as an environmental review function where users can obtain their PNDI Receipts. These two tools in one will provide greater efficiency and certainty for both industry and conservation. Public roll out date in sometime in early January.

Conservation Education: The Bureau of Forestry established a steering committee for Project Learning Tree (PLT) in 2015 comprised of industry, education and resource professionals. The committee is tasked with advising and recommending initiatives that with make PLT a stronger program in Pennsylvania. It also completed interpretive exhibits in the Weiser State Forest Resource Management Center that tell the story of the district and the bureau. These exhibits and messages will be applied to future resource management centers.

Many bureau staff served on committees for the 2015 Private Forest Landowner’s Conference held in Altoona. The two day conference promotes forest stewardship for private land holders and land managers in Pennsylvania.

The bureau rolled out an interpretive plan template for all 20 forest districts. When completed each district will have a plan guiding efforts and funding for interpretive work moving forward. This also will tie into district-level management plans.

Wild Plant Sanctuary Program: The Wild Plant Sanctuary Program added five new sites in the past four years, bringing the total number of designated sanctuaries across Pennsylvania to 15. Created by the Wild Resource Conservation Act of 1982 to provide a voluntary statewide network of native plant sanctuaries, the program promotes conservation of natural areas and native plants, while recognizing private landowners who serve as models of good conservation and stewardship of these special resources.

TreeVitalize®: TreeVitalize® is a DCNR public-private partnership effort that seeks to educate citizens and increase the quality of life for Pennsylvanians in urban/suburban settings. The program helps citizens understand the myriad benefits of planting trees, the importance of keeping existing trees in the community healthy, and the value of sufficient tree canopy. The program also encourages and provides outlets for citizens and municipalities to take action to improve their urban and community forests. To date, TreeVitalize has successfully partnered with regional, county, and community government offices, as well as non-profit entities to plant more than 426,700 trees. Citizens can help achieve our tree planting goals by registering trees they’ve planted at home on the TreeVitalize website.

In 2016, DCNR’s TreeVitalize program will continue to offer community forestry assistance through TreeVitalize tree planting and street tree inventory grants (administered by the PA Urban & Community Forestry Council), TreeTenders® trainings, technical assistance, and urban tree canopy assessments. In 2015 alone, the total population in the communities served by TreeVitalize was over 6 million, which is about half the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Water quality/aquatic habitat improvement projects at state parks: The bureau continued its lake management program at state parks to control nuisance and invasive aquatic vegetation impacting outdoor recreation. DCNR’s Resource Management and Field Services Section and Pymatuning State Park staff, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, US Army Corps of Engineers, and others are teaming up to address hydrilla at Pymatuning. A DEP Growing Greener Plus grant is being sought to fund additional herbicide applications.

Caledonia State Park, via a partnership with PA Fish and Boat Commission, is restoring a 200-foot streambank and riparian buffer along Carbaugh Run, a native trout stream.

Dickinson College researchers collaborated with DCNR to monitor the health and ecology of Laurel and Fuller lakes in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The project will provide insights into how storm events and weather affect water quality; provide lake managers with a more comprehensive understanding of the lakes’ ecology; and enhance communication to the public by producing signage for lake visitors.

In cooperation with DCNR, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission completed large-scale lake habitat and shoreline stabilization projects at Beltzville, Bald Eagle, Prince Gallitzin, and Marsh Creek state parks. Smaller-scale volunteer projects occurred at an additional 12 parks.

Habitat Management: The Bureau of State Parks is partnering with various private, state and federal organizations to enhance biodiversity and to ensure healthy forests:

Nearly 8,000 trees were planted in 2015;

In partnership with the “The Game of Logging”, a premier chainsaw safety and skills training company, the bureau worked to train a cadre of 12 State Parks personnel in the skills of hazardous tree removal. The team included park maintenance supervisors, park managers, and a select set of maintenance team members with existing strong technical skills;

Yellow Creek State Park initiated an expansive landscape restoration and habitat improvement project in the day use area. This will improve the visitors experience through improved safety, aesthetics, and watchable wildlife. Trees removed will be utilized by a local university and turned into art.

Successional Habitat Management programs (prescribed burns) are in place at several parks. It was the first burn for some of these parks. Additional staff was trained and sites were prepared for future prescribed fire. The section also initiated plans to encourage enhancement of young forest habitat at Ohiopyle State Park, Prince Gallitzin State Park, Ricketts Glen State Park and other state park field locations.

DCNR continues to work cooperatively with the Game Commission on a habitat conservation plan for lands providing potential foraging, roosting, maternity colony and fall swarming habitat to address impacts to federally-listed bats in Pennsylvania from forest management practices on state park, forest and game lands. In 2015, the Indiana Bat Habitat Conservation Plan opened discussion to consider expansion of the plan to include habitat needs for the Northern Long-eared bat.

Coordinating Research: Scientific research always has been an important tool for managing our state parks and state forests. To more effectively utilize research, DCNR’s new Parks and Forestry Research Committee’s continues identify common research priorities and review all research proposals funded by either bureau. The committee provides input on potential researchers, existing studies, scopes of work and other items.



January 6, 2016




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