Ensure the Future of Conservation
The major DCNR accomplishments of 2021 to ensure the future of conservation are listed below.
Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps
Created in 2016 with cooperation of the Department of Labor and Industry, the corps addresses a backlog of state park and forest improvement projects while instilling a sense of conservation and outdoors-oriented career options within young people.
In 2021, the program mobilized 126 members to complete conservation, health and safety, and visitor-readiness projects in dozens of parks, forests, and communities across the Pennsylvania.
A total of 21 crews worked last year from host locations across the commonwealth. From those crews, nine members were hired into DCNR in various positions, including semi-skilled labors, park manager trainees, ranger, interpretative technician and as a custodial worker. One was hired to work for the Department of Agriculture to study the spotted lanternfly.
In 2021, crews completed:
- 144 structure repairs;
- 121 miles of trail creation or repair;
- Planting 2,824 trees and native plants;
- Collection of 1,325 data points during community tree inventories.
A new Cultural Resource Crew was created to assist the department’s new Cultural Resources Program. The crew completed excavations at Moraine and Ohiopyle state parks, saving taxpayers approximately $200,000 with its work. Two additional specialty crews implemented in 2021 were a roving trail crew, and an American Sign Language crew.
Next Gen Council
DCNR began recruiting in 2021 for the Next Gen Council, which will begin work in 2022. The council was created to help increase public participation and diversity at state parks and forests by gathering input from a diverse group of engaged individuals.
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Heavy rainfall, flooding, damage to state park and state forest infrastructure – all accompanying a continued warming of our climate.
DCNR continues efforts to address these and other impacts of climate change:
- Our climate change outreach and communication to external groups continued to expand this year. State Parks held 313 environmental education programs focused completely, or in part, on climate change, reaching more than 7,000 people. Additionally, the Director of Applied Climate Science spoke to 21 organizations and groups this year, ranging from universities and civic groups to state and national conferences.
- Requiring all 2021 grant applicants to describe how their project will help to reduce the severity of current and future climate impacts through green and sustainable practices.
- The department joined with the departments of Environmental Protection and Community and Economic Development to form a carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) interagency work group. This is in response to significant industry interest in employing CCUS in the commonwealth.
- Numerous infrastructure projects were undertaken to reduce energy use and adapt to climate change. This included modifying wastewater treatment facilities at five state parks to address the hydraulic overload resulting from increasingly common heavy rain events.
- Completed a stream restoration at Irish Gap (Kings Gap Environmental Education Center), in partnership with Trout Unlimited, that improves brook trout habitat, reduces stream erosion, and improves public access.
- Broke ground on the first tree species assisted migration research project on state forest land.
- The DCNR Bureau of Forestry is using a dataset developed by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which identifies climate resilient areas and areas that could serve as connected migratory pathways, as part of a ranking process in land-acquisition decision making.
Outdoor Programming Services/Youth Engagement
More than 176,000 people participated in state park educational programs, including nearly 30,000 who learned outdoor recreational skills such as archery, kayaking, snowshoeing, and geocaching.
State parks offered 65 teacher workshops on songbirds, watersheds, hiking, connecting preschoolers to nature, Project Learning Tree, Project Wild, Project WET, stand-up paddle-boarding, and climate change and provided 998 programs for 29,738 school students.
Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET)
Overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, program funding permits DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks to partner with other agencies to oversee implementation of activities to include learning experiences both outdoors and in the classroom to increase understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ocean, coastal, riverine, estuarine, and Great Lakes ecosystems. DCNR continued this partnership in 2021 and plans to continue in 2022.
Project Learning Tree
DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry continued its steady leadership in youth forestry education through administering Project Learning Tree, the Scout Forest Conservation Award program, and the forestry component of Envirothon during 2021.