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Promote Responsible Stewardship of the Commonwealth’s Natural Resources

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2018 to promote responsible stewardship of the commonwealth’s natural resources are listed below.

Forest, Land, and Water Conservation

Native Wild Plant List Updates

DCNR adopted an update to Pennsylvania’s Wild Plant Regulations in 2018. A total of nine species are being added and nine are moving from a lower classification to a higher classification. Two species are moving from a higher classification to a lower classification, and 31 are being removed. There are 79 plant name changes and 22 fewer classified species.

PA Plant Conservation Alliance

The Bureau of Forestry began coordinating a new initiative focused on the stewardship of rare, threatened, and endangered plants in Pennsylvania by connecting landowners, agencies, researchers, and interested citizens.

Bat Habitat Conservation Plan

The Bureau of Forestry partnered with the Pennsylvania Game Commission in developing a habitat conservation plan for Indiana and northern long-eared bats on 2.2 million acres of state forest lands.

Research and Collection Permits

The Bureau of State Parks issued 103 Research and Collection Permits in 2018. Research was conducted by 36 universities, high schools, and numerous public agencies, nonprofit groups, and private citizens. Studies focused on the diverse lake, stream, wetland, early seral, and forest habitats in state parks, and are tied closely to the bureau’s Resource Management’s section’s ongoing restoration and enhancement efforts.

In 2018, scientific research ranged from investigating geology and soils to water and air quality. Significant attention was focused on plant populations and forest health. A wide range of animal life was investigated, including sponges, earthworms, insects, mollusks, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

Natural Resource Management

Natural Gas Activity Management

In 2018, approximately 1,240 shale gas wells on state forest lands (or wells under lease and unitized with publicly-owned streambeds) had production capacity. Forty-two new wells were spud on state forest lands. Two state forest leases encompassing 1,142 acres were returned to the state. Thirty-six abandoned conventional wells have been plugged or are in the process of being plugged on state forestlands.

Second Shale Gas Monitoring Report Released

The second Shale Gas Monitoring Report (PDF) was released at the end of July.  Monitoring includes detecting changes, tracking activities, reporting findings, and modifying practices where applicable.

Forest Management Certification

Pennsylvania state forests are certified by Scientific Certification Systems under Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC) standards. The bureau achieved dual certification for its management of 2.2 million acres of forests by meeting standards set forth by both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). In a related move, the bureau was recognized for maintaining 20 straight years of FSC certification for that acreage.

Second Year of Piping Plovers at Presque Isle

Presque Isle State Park saw the second consecutive year for successful piping plover nests, with four chicks fledged. It also was the first year a pair of common terns attempted to nest, and the first time both species have nested on Presque Isle since the mid-20th century. The nesting plovers highlight success of both the species-specific management objectives in the park, and cooperative partnerships that made it happen.

Prescribed Fire Applied

Two state parks utilized prescribed fire to improve ecosystems, provide early successional habitat for wildlife, and reduce hazardous fuel. Planning for seven sites to be managed in 2019 is underway.

Healthy Habitat and Forests

The Bureau of State Parks improved the span of forest age classes and species diversity across large landscapes, increasing structural and biological diversity, critical to supporting diverse and abundant wildlife. A total of 81 acres saw mechanical restoration and 3,765 acres, herbicide suppression, occurring at 31 parks. (This represents a 25 percent increase in acreage from 2017.)

Also, 78 acres saw planting and seeding restored, and improved compromised habitats and non-beneficial plant communities addressed at French Creek, Laurel Hill, Neshaminy, Ohiopyle, Prince Gallitzin, and Varden state parks.  (Almost doubling the restoration plantings accomplished in 2017). Finally, a forest stand improvement sale was conducted at Prince Gallitzin State Park. The salvage operation was an effort to restore diversity and obtain the highest end-use for timber removed.

The Bureau of State Parks also treated 15,000 trees at 13 parks to suppress hemlock woolly adelgid and elongate hemlock scale devastating our state tree, the eastern hemlock.

Scientific and Technical Services

Correctional Institution Arboriculture Training Program

Hailed by a Wolf Administration official as “a fabulous example of silo-breaking in state government,” DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry partnered with the state Department of Corrections to offer tree maintenance training to inmates at the Forestry Camp, State Correctional Institution in Bellefonte. Designed to provide reentry skills, the program is being expanded to other state institutions.

Chronic Wasting Disease Partnership

Working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and state Department of Agriculture, DCNR continues to support a multi-agency effort to suppress the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease throughout the state, with special emphasis on public outreach and education. Fifteen state parks are within the commission’s Disease Management Area (DMA) for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD):

  • Big Spring
  • Blue Knob
  • Buchanan’s Birthplace
  • Caledonia
  • Canoe Creek
  • Colonel Denning
  • Cowans Gap
  • Fowlers Hollow
  • Kings Gap
  • Mont Alto
  • Nolde Forest
  • Pine Grove Furnace
  • Shawnee
  • Trough Creek
  • Warriors Path

PA Conservation Explorer

The Pennsylvania National Heritage Program’s (PNHP) environmental review screening tool -- PA Conservation Explorer -- had another successful year. The site was visited 87,000 times (up 9.8 percent over 2017), with users running 3,781 conservation planning reports.  A total of 27,507 projects were entered and screened, with 21,208 submitted for agency review.

Tick-Borne Disease Collaboration

PNHP staff have been collaborating with researchers from Indiana University of Pennsylvania who are investigating the presence and extent of tick-borne pathogens in Pennsylvania. DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is providing small mammal specimens collected throughout central Pennsylvania to be analyzed for the presence of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (Anaplasmosis), and Babesia microti (Babesiosis).

Safe, Effective Gypsy Moth Treatment

During May 2018, 46,358 acres of forestlands in Pennsylvania were treated to minimize impact from gypsy moth infestations. Post-treatment evaluations reflected a 100 percent success rate based on bureau program guidelines. Land ownership included DCNR (state forests and parks), Pennsylvania Game Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, and private residential.

Hemlock Trees Treated

Combatting the wooly adelgid, 26,405 hemlock trees were treated on 5,519 acres of DCNR lands. Soil injection was the primary treatment method.

Spotted Lanternfly: Yet Another Invasive Foe

First discovered in Pennsylvania in Berks County in 2014, the spotted lanternfly has spread rapidly to other counties in the state’s southeast portion. It has the potential to greatly impact certain crops and hardwoods while reducing the quality of life for people living in heavily infested areas.

The PA Department of Agriculture provided funding to state parks to suppress ailanthus trees (a preferred host of the spotted lantern fly), or treat with an insecticide to use as a trap, killing the spotted lantern fly. State parks are educating park visitors on the insect’s impact and the important of not transporting them to new locations when they leave a park.

A total of 27 state parks are within quarantine zones; an estimated 5,000 ailanthus trees were inventoried; 474 ailanthus trees were suppressed in nine parks; and 37 ailanthus “trap trees’ were treated with insecticide in 2018.

Groundwater

The Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey continued work on the Pennsylvania Groundwater Information System (PaGWIS) of water-well and spring data, adding more than 14,000 new water-well records, while improving more than 31,000 records. About 100 spring records were added to the database.

The bureau released bedrock geologic maps covering more than 110 square miles in Clinton and Cameron counties.
The bureau also supported DCNR by siting new water-supply wells for Buchanan State Forest and Raccoon Creek and Kettle Creek state parks. It also assisted in rehabilitation of an existing well at Cherry Springs State Park.

Accent on Information Technology -- LIDAR Federal Funding Secured

Thanks to the diligence of State Geologist Gale Blackmer and contributions of other state agencies, Pennsylvania’s application for federal LIDAR funding through the U.S. Geologic Survey was successful. A total of $1.22 million was secured for this mapping effort, which measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor.

Coupled with state’s contributions of $2.15M from six state agencies, DCNR will be able to secure high-resolution mapping for 22 counties, which will greatly aid communities in flood mitigation and other planning efforts.

Mid-Atlantic U.S. Offshore Carbon Storage Resource Assessment Project

Over the past three years, this project has compiled, inventoried, and assimilated various publicly available data sets to provide a strong technical basis on which future carbon storage studies and applications can be built.

Mineralogical and elemental analyses provided by the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey’s Geologic Resources Division -- along with assessments of reservoir porosity and permeability -- were instrumental components of the project team’s collaborative determination that Mid-Atlantic U.S. offshore geologic formations can potentially store decades of CO2 from industrial sources in the region.

The division also took the lead in developing recommendations for a road map for U.S. offshore carbon capture and storage deployment.

TreeVitalize Program

The TreeVitalize program facilitated the planting of 4,097 urban street trees. Fourteen communities from 13 counties across the state received tree planting grants ranging from $1,500 to $12,000 for a total of $70,000. An additional $25,000 funded four shade tree management improvement projects in three counties.

Twelve Pennsylvania communities received Tree City USA recognition in 2018, and seven also received a Growth Award through the program for significant improvements in programs.

Expand Water Restoration and Protection

Water Quality/Aquatic Habitat

DCNR continues to advance its water quality program in state park waterways and impoundments through vegetation surveys, continuous high frequency monitoring, whole lake assessments, bathymetric mapping, and nuisance and invasive aquatic vegetation suppression. Working in cooperation with the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission, the Bureau of State Parks completed seven lake and stream habitat projects:

  • Prince Gallitzin, Moraine, Pymatuning, Lackawanna and Beltzville -- shoreline stabilization
  • Presque Isle -- 60 short vertical plank habitat structures placed in Presque Isle Bay
  • Frances Slocum -- placement of 30 porcupine cribs

Aquatic vegetation suppression projects were implemented at 152 sites across the state, controlling nuisance aquatic vegetation that negatively impacts outdoor recreation and aquatic biodiversity. This includes an 800-acre aquatic invasive species suppression project at Pymatuning Reservoir targeting hydrilla.

As cyanobacteria blooms are impacting surface water across the state, the bureau hosted cyanobacteria training for park managers, and completed cyanobacteria bloom investigations at 10 state parks. Five sites investigated exceeded recommended the recreational human health advisory threshold.

Focus on State Park Lake Depths

In partnership with the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey, bathymetric (water – depth) data was collected for six state park lakes:

  • Locust Lake
  • Tuscarora Lake
  • Parker Lake
  • Greenwood Lake
  • Stephen Foster Lake at Mount Pisgah
  • Beltzville Reservoir

A total of 44 impoundments now have maps, which, beyond water depths, display fish habitat, such as stumps or downed trees, and of interest to anglers and boaters.

In addition, the Bureau of State Parks designed an aquatic restoration project at Ohiopyle State Park, which will reestablish exceptional value wetlands and significantly improve native brook trout habitat.

The bureau also completed design for meadow restoration at Lackawanna State Park, and completed design for removal of Haskins Dam at Nockamixon State Park, which will eliminate a public safety hazard and significantly improve aquatic passage within Tohickon Creek.

Income-Producing Buffer Program

DCNR awarded close to $1 million in grant investments to five recipients throughout Pennsylvania for planting trees and income-producing species along streams. Stream buffers help keep nutrients and sediments from the land from impacting water quality. All projects include multi-functional buffers, containing species such as nut trees, berries, and willows in buffer zones so that the landowner can sell these products, and realize some income from land dedicated to buffers.

Land and Water Conservation and Restoration

Over the period of 2014-2018, DCNR conserved 22,313 acres of land, including headwater protection lands (such as the Letort Spring Run acquisition); and important landscape connectivity of properties and lands important for open space and wildlife.

All land conservation projects will help with climate resilience and mitigation. On the waterfront, DCNR has invested more than  $8.1M in watershed restoration, floodplain restoration, and stream buffer establishment.