Operate Effectively and Efficiently
The major DCNR accomplishments of 2021 to operate effectively and efficiently are listed below.
Midwest Regional Carbon Initiative and the 21st Century Power Plants Program
The DCNR Bureau of Geological Survey continues to work on carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) with participation in the Midwest Regional Carbon Initiative and the 21st Century Power Plants program. The division also continues to lead in developing recommendations for a road map for U.S. offshore carbon capture and storage deployment.
The carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) interagency team collaborated with other signatory states on the CO2 Transport Infrastructure Action Plan, which was released in October.
The shortage of critical minerals (CM) and rare earth elements (REE) is one of the most important issues facing the nation. In conjunction with several other regional states, the DCNR Bureau of Geologic Survey secured a federal grant to conduct sampling of coal underclays as potential sources for REE, aluminum, lithium, gallium and hafnium. Sampling was completed in 2021; geochemical analysis is underway.
A proposal for a $4 million aerial geophysics study to explore for REE and other metal ore bodies in the subsurface in a swath of western and southern Pennsylvania was submitted in collaboration with Maryland and West Virginia. Funding decisions are expected in Spring 2022. DCNR also is part of a research team for the US DOE-funded Mid-APPalachian Carbon Ore, Rare Earth and Critical Minerals (MAPP-CORE) Initiative.
The objective of this project is to identify key barriers and opportunities in connecting CORE-CM materials and resources to end-users and manufacturers, including technical, workforce, and economic considerations. In particular, the bureau will help to characterize and assess major coals, coal-derived waste streams and organic-rich shales for REE and CM content.
Battery Powered Equipment
DCNR provided new battery-operated tools for 20 state parks, including new string trimmers, leaf blowers and chainsaws. Replacing gasoline-powered with battery-powered tools helps to further reduce the department’s carbon footprint and lessen the noise from this equipment that impacts state park visitors enjoying the quiet of nature.
Innovative Energy Efficiency Programs
DCNR continues to pursue Guaranteed Energy Saving Act (GESA) eligible projects across its properties to continue to improve lighting to LED, installing more efficient HVAC systems, improving building envelopes and other upgrades. Thirty-one solar arrays have been installed at state parks, including three in 2021:
- Shikellamy Gorge Lane
- Sproul Forest District
- Ryerson Station Swimming Pool
There are nine projects underway that are expected to be completed in 2022 and two projects are up for bid in 2022.
Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles
There are 33 public electric vehicle charging stations that now serve as proving grounds to improve accessibility and range for park visitors who drive plugin hybrid or full electric-powered vehicles. When the current slate of projects is complete, more than 40 DCNR affiliated locations will have electric vehicle charging stations.
Electric Vehicle Fleet
DCNR boasts 33 electric and plugin vehicles in its fleet, with 10 additions in 2021. The department aims to add two additional electric motorcycles for Nockamixon and French Creek state parks in 2022.
Collaborative Project to Pave Road with Recycled Plastic
A pilot project to pave part of a Ridley Creek State Park roadway with an asphalt and recycled plastic mixture was completed in fall 2021. The project, coordinated through PennDOT’s Strategic Recycling Program which is funded through the Department of Environmental Protection, includes two quarter-mile roadway stretches surfaced with an asphalt/recycled-plastic mix. The material is intended to strengthen the roadway surface without leaching plastic material into the surrounding environment.
Forest Fire Protection
More than 200 bureau and volunteer firefighters were deployed to battle blazes in 14 western states. Assisting other states provides valuable training and experience for firefighters that can be applied when responding to future wildfires in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania also experienced an active wildfire year, with approximately 1,300 wildfires burning 3,000 acres reported in 2021. The largest fire of the year burned about 250 acres in Warren County.
Bureau personnel safely conducted 45 controlled burns on 1,800 acres of DCNR-managed lands, reducing fuel loads while helping to restore fire-adapted forest communities.
Communications and Outreach
To inform and engage with citizens, DCNR uses Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts to interact with more than 880,000 followers and friends.
During 2021, the department increased its Twitter followers by 9 percent, its Facebook followers by 26 percent, its Instagram followers by 21 percent, and its YouTube followers by 66 percent.
DCNR’s main agency social media followers account for 16 percent of all DCNR social media followers (including the 55 state park and forest accounts).
The department answered more than 1,000 natural resource and recreation questions posed by the public through the AskDCNR and PaForester accounts.
The Bureau of Forestry responded to record interest in fall foliage, interviewing with at more than two dozen media outlets and providing comprehensive, statewide reporting for seven weeks. Increased interest in the outdoors and close-to-home travel during COVID-19 increased the focus on Pennsylvania’s fall foliage season.
Continuous Process Improvement
Work continues on a process to modernize DCNR policies, which should be completed in 2022. We have consistent formatting and a new policy template that is being using throughout the agency. Policies will be housed in one place online which will allow for policies to be reviewed and updated regularly.
Documenting Business Processes
In conjunction with Agriculture and Environmental Protection, we have started documenting our business processes to build a cross-agency catalog. The goal is to share our business process inventory to look for future opportunities for process improvements and should help our IT Delivery Center streamline solutions.
DCNR held a tabletop exercise with Nockamixon State Park, Office of Homeland Security (PA OHS), State Police, and local players. PA OHS provided an after-action report and a number of improvements were discussed and made after the tabletop exercise. There were a few gaps identified and our emergency action plan was updated.
Outreach to Staff
In 2021, we continued the all-staff calls with Secretary Dunn and deputies that were started when the work from home order was given during the pandemic. An average of 515 employees participated in the all-staff calls held quarterly. These virtual meetings are used to update employees on hot topics and news within the agency, as well as receive questions and feedback from employees. DCNR plans to continue the all-staff calls in 2022.
Secretary Dunn and the deputy secretaries answered questions from senators about DCNR’s proposed 2021-22 budget in March of 2021 during Senate Appropriations hearings. Sec. Dunn thanked DCNR staff for their hard work despite challenging circumstances.
In September, Secretary Dunn and Deputy Secretary Norbeck attended a multi-day trip to tour Elk Country Visitor Center and Kinzua Bridge State Park, two northwest Pennsylvania gems with more than 20 legislators and staff.
Secretary Dunn spoke to the House Tourism and the House Game and Fisheries in October about the huge increase in outdoor recreation during the pandemic, which continued throughout 2021. She highlighted the importance of outdoor recreation to the economy and emphasized the need for greater investments in state park and forest infrastructure and DCNR grant programs.
In December, Deputy Secretary Norbeck and Assistant State Forester Albright spoke at an ATV Regional Trail Connector Pilot informational meeting to discuss the pilot program, which launched in 2021.
The Conservation & Environment Human Resources Delivery Center, Office of Administration, continues to work on standardizing processes and learning about the agencies for which HR services are provided. Accomplishments include:
- Expansion of recruitment activities with the addition of a recruiter and tracking;
- Continued transition to a vacancy-based hiring system that has provided DCNR with larger candidate pools; and
- Continued improvement to the intern hiring process.