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Promote Responsible Stewardship of the Commonwealth’s Natural Resources

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2021 to promote responsible stewardship of the commonwealth’s natural resources are listed below.

TreeVitalize Program

DCNR hired its first Tree Equity Specialist to focus on aspects of Environmental Justice and urban forestry. The TreeVitalize program facilitated the planting of 2,467 trees and reached 111 TreeCity USA Communities. The program assisted a total of 197 communities.

Streamside Forest Buffers

Outdoors, nature, grass, field, people, trees, planting, equipment

The fourth DCNR Riparian Forest Buffer Summit was held virtually and was attended by 300 professionals. The total acreage of trees and shrubs planted through buffer and lawn conversion programs in 2021 was about 126, comprising approximately 22,128 trees/shrubs. Almost nine acres were reported as converted to meadow.

In December DCNR awarded $1.2 million in grant investments for planting about 180 acres of trees and income-producing species along streams. Stream buffers help keep nutrients and sediments from the land from impacting water quality.

Correctional Institution Arboriculture Training Program

DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry continued to partner with the state Department of Corrections for a fifth year in 2021. To date, the program has reached 128 incarcerated inmates totaling more than 400 hours of training -- at Rockview and Huntingdon state correctional institutions. The program is designed to provide reentry skills inmates can tap after discharge and grow the number of workers planting and maintaining trees. In 2021, professionals from the forest products industry taught a group of 12 men lumber grading and timber harvesting essentials; the program continues to branch-out and evolve every year.

Bat Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

In 2021 DCNR announced new conservation measures in certain state forests where federally threatened and endangered bats are found. The measures address traditional firewood collection and cutting of standing dead trees to help protect and maintain habitats for the federally threatened northern long-eared bat and the federally endangered Indiana bat.

Land Conservation

More than 4,400 acres were conserved by DCNR in 2021. All land conservation projects will help with climate resilience and mitigation.

Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan

In 2021 DCNR released Pennsylvania’s new Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan (PDF) extending through 2024.

The plan’s vision is to develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation, and healthy lifestyles for all. The plan is a blueprint including seven recommendations and 40 action steps for meeting the trail needs of all Pennsylvanians.

Additions to the Old Growth Forest Network

Outdoors, people, trees, forest, trail, nature 

The Old-Growth Forest Network is a national organization working to preserve ancient forests for the enjoyment of present and future generations. In counties capable of supporting forest growth, the network identifies at least one forest that will be protected from logging and open to the public. DCNR assisted in adding six sites in Pennsylvania in 2021:

  • Fallbrook Natural Area at Salt Springs State Park
  • Henry’s Woods at Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center
  • Jakey Hollow Natural Area in Weiser State Forest
  • McConnells Mill State Park
  • World’s End State Park
  • White Clay Creek Preserve

Wild Plant Sanctuaries

DCNR designated 35 acres of state forest lands as wild plant sanctuaries and monitored 26 other wild plant sanctuaries for state-listed species.

Seedlings Planted in Moshannon State Forest

DCNR planted about 950,000 seedlings in Moshannon State Forest, helping to establish a new generation of trees in areas impacted by Lymantria Dispar (gypsy moth).

Natural Gas Well Plugging

Twenty-two wells were plugged by operators and seven orphaned wells were plugged under a cooperative agreement with DEP. Associated well pads were rehabilitated per bureau specifications.

Natural Gas Activity Management

The Bureau of Forestry currently manages 495 conventional and 914 unconventional natural gas wells located on 84 state forest, six state park, 35 public streambed, seven gas storage, and five Department of General Services leases.  Within the past year, 84 leases were processed for a change in lessee. Revenues generated from natural gas resources in 2021 totaled more than $82 million -- a 27 percent increase over 2020 revenues.

Restoration of Lake at Marsh Creek State Park

Last fall the commonwealth reached a settlement with Sunoco Pipeline, L.P., that will require the company to dredge Ranger Cove in the 535-acre lake at Marsh Creek State Park in Chester County, as well as pay $4 million for natural resource damages, which will be used to restore and improve visitor experiences at the park, and a $341,000 civil penalty for permit violations. In August 2020, drilling fluids and mud were discharged into Ranger Cove in Marsh Creek Lake during Sunoco’s pipeline installation, requiring the cove to be closed.

Water Restoration and Protection

Aquatic vegetation suppression occurred at 16 state parks. In coordination with university, county, federal, and other state entities the Pennsylvania Class A Noxious Weed hydrilla was suppressed in 410 acres of Pymatuning Reservoir.

Aquatic vegetation surveys were completed at 1,532 survey points in 13 impoundments.

Launch Stewards, working out of nine state parks, educated 5,302 visitors on the importance of cleaning recreational gear to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive organisms.

Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Monitoring

Thirteen parks experienced suspected cyanobacteria bloom conditions. Five parks had samples that exceeded recreational advisory thresholds and nine had samples exceeding dog advisory thresholds. DCNR continues to collaborate with other agencies on protocols and outreach strategies related to harmful algal blooms.

Forest Pest Management

Outdoors, nature, tree, bark, caterpillars, bugs, insect

Lymantria Dispar (Gypsy Moth) Suppression

DCNR conducted a large Lymantria dispar suppression program, treating more than 200,000 acres of forest in 2021. Egg mass surveys revealed the need to treat an equally large area in 2022.

Treatment of Eastern Hemlocks for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Biological control agents were released again to combat hemlock woolly adelgid. The Bureau of Forestry treated 11,437 hemlock trees on 4,449 acers of DCNR-managed lands.

Treatment for Emerald Ash Borer

Biological control agents continue to be released for emerald ash borer and 1,500 additional ash trees were treated on DCNR-managed lands.


DCNR’s Bureau of Geological Survey, with the support of a team of state, federal, private, and academic professionals, continues its program to maintain complete, and modernize authoritative surface water mapping for Pennsylvania. The hydrography team continues to work closely with the USGS to demonstrate the future of hydrographic mapping and data management. A digital base maps page has been added to the DCNR website.

Lake Studies

The Bureau of Geologic Survey released three lake-depth maps for state park lakes in 2021: Prompton, Hickory Run, and Gouldsboro.

Federal Geological Partnership

The Bureau of Geologic Survey continued to partner with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) STATEMAP and Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition grant programs that enable us to pursue geologic mapping beyond what can be done with DCNR resources.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Partnership

DCNR continued participation in the statewide CWD Task Force. This is a multi-agency effort to suppress the spread of CWD throughout the state, with special emphasis on public outreach and education. Disease Management Areas currently affect 24 state parks and 12 state forest districts. DCNR has approximately 485,716 acres currently located within a CWD Disease Management Area, which have special rules and regulations.

Wild Resource Conservation Program

The Wild Resource Conservation Program received 14 grant applications from a variety of applicants, requesting more than $457,000. The board will meet in April to decide which projects to fund. The Wild Resource Conservation Program aids in the conservation of the commonwealth’s flora and non-game fauna.

Threatened and Endangered (T&E) Wildlife Species Conservation

DCNR staff continues to work with partners to conduct surveys for T&E species like the Allegheny woodrat and the timber rattlesnake.

For example, DCNR biologists, foresters, and rangers are working in cooperation with the Fish & Boat Commission to protect timber rattlesnakes in the Michaux State Forest, which is a Special Protection Area. Also, DCNR biologists have provided training to loggers on bats and rattlesnakes through the well-managed forest certification program. DCNR staff also works with foresters and the jurisdictional agencies to make sure timber operations don’t negatively impact T&E species.

Research and Collection Permits

More than 100 Research and Collection Permits were issued. Research was conducted by 42 universities and numerous public agencies, nonprofit groups, and private citizens. These projects examine a wide array of topics, habitats and areas of study each year.