Thursday, March 24, 2016

Woods in Your Backyard Workshop Being Offered In State College

Do you have woods in your backyard? Penn State research for Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry estimates that nearly half a million Pennsylvanians own a small patch of woodlands -- something less than ten acres in size. In fact, the average small ownership is about two acres. In sum these small patches add up to about a million or so acres, or about 10 percent, of the state’s privately held woodlands. We can speculate that about one in eight of Pennsylvania’s households own one of these small woodland areas.

Whether you have hundreds or just a couple of wooded acres, you may have plans for and visions about its use. Anyone interested in improving their acreage for the benefit of humans, flora and fauna will not want to miss the fourth in the “Woods in Your Backyard” series of programs to be held in State College.

Woods in Your Backyard: Creating Healthy Habitats for People, Plants, and Wildlife will be held Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Forest Resources Building Auditorium, Penn State University Park, PA. The program is sponsored by Forests for the Bay, Penn State Extension and ClearWater Conservancy.

This workshop is designed specifically (but not exclusively) for smaller landscapes. These small lots are a big deal. The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s landowners have less than 10 acres. This land, wooded or not, can provide benefits. By enhancing wooded areas or creating natural areas on your property, you can enjoy recreation, aesthetics, wildlife, improved water quality and reduced energy costs. Owners of even the smallest landscapes can make a positive difference in their environment through planning and implementing simple stewardship practices.

The workshop introduces the manual “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas around Your Home.” All participants will receive the full-color, 139-page manual - a $23 value! This self-directed book will guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources.

The entire workshop will take place at the Penn State Forest Resources Building. All participants will remain together in the morning sessions and then choose their afternoon sessions based on interest.
Topics will include:
-           Forest and soil ecology
-           Your woods and water
-           Tree and wildflower identification
-           Woodland management techniques
-           Identifying and controlling invasive plants
-           Creating or improving wildlife habitat
-           Converting lawns to woods or meadows
-           Creating pollinator habitat
-           Medicinal plants, mushrooms and maple syrup
-           Songbirds …...and more

Cost is $25 per individual or $40 for two from the same household (includes manual, lunch and light morning refreshments). Registration due by April 25th.
For more information and to register go to: or call 814-355-4897.

If unable to attend but you would still like a copy of the book you can purchase a copy by visiting the PALS website (it’s currently a featured book) or call 607-255-7654. For more information on Woods in Your Backyard visit:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2015/16 Deer Harvest Estimates Released by PA Game Commission

The Pennsylvania Game Commission released the results of the 2015-16 deer seasons, which closed in January. Hunters harvested an estimated 315,813 deer – an increase of about 4 percent compared to the 2014-15 harvest of 303,973.

Compared to the previous license year, the antlered deer harvest increased 15% to 137,580. Hunters also harvested an estimated 178,233 antlerless deer in 2015-16, which represented about a 4 percent decrease compared to the 2014-15 season.

The percentage of older bucks in the harvest might be the most eye-opening number in the report. A whopping 59 percent of whitetail bucks taken by Pennsylvania hunters during the 2015-16 deer seasons were 2½ years old or older, making for the highest percentage of adult bucks in the harvest in decades. This is vastly different from harvests in the past when the majority of bucks were 1.5 years of age. The antlerless harvest included about 63 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 17 percent doe fawns. The rates are similar to long-term averages.

Game Commission Wildlife Management Director Wayne Laroche pointed out the trend of more adult bucks in the harvest started when antler restrictions were put into place in 2002. More yearling bucks are making it through the first hunting season through which they carry a rack. Season after season, a greater proportion of the annual buck harvest has been made up of adult bucks. “To see that number now at nearly 60 percent is remarkable,” Laroche said. “It goes to show what antler restrictions have accomplished – they’ve created a Pennsylvania where every deer hunter in the woods has a real chance of taking the buck of a lifetime.”

The decrease in the 2015-16 antlerless harvest was a predictable outcome, given that 33,000 fewer antlerless licenses were allocated statewide in 2015-16, compared to the previous year. Reducing the allocation within a Wildlife Management Unit allows deer numbers to grow. Records show it takes an allocation of about four antlerless licenses to harvest one antlerless deer, and the success rate for antlerless-deer hunters again was consistent at about 25 percent in 2015-16.

Harvest estimates are based on more than 24,000 deer checked by Game Commission personnel and more than 100,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters. Because some harvests go unreported, estimates provide a more accurate picture of hunter success. However, in 2015-16 the rate at which successful hunters reported their harvests increased slightly.

Agency staff currently is working to develop 2016-17 antlerless deer license allocation recommendations, which will be considered at the April 5 meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners. Wayne Laroche, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director, said that in addition to harvest data, staff will be looking at deer health measures, forest regeneration and deer-human conflicts for each WMU.

To read the full news release click here

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The New York State Hemlock Initiative

Cornell Cooperative Extension in NY state is working on a big initiative to prevent their hemlock resource from being decimated by hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) and other threats.  They put together a great video entitled "Hemlock Woolly Adelgid an Educational Film" as well as a number of other resources that I wanted to share with my readers.  This information is applicable to much of Pennsylvania still.  In particular, I found the "Treatment Options" link to be very helpful.  Copied below is information from their home page.  If you are still struggling with HWA be sure to check it out.

The mission of the New York State Hemlock Initiative is to coordinate research, management, and volunteers to conserve New York State’s hemlock resources in the face of multiple threats, particularly that posed by an invasive pest, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.

The New York State Hemlock Initiative (NYSHI) coordinates the state-wide effort of multiple agencies and other interested groups to conserve the state’s hemlock resources. Mortality due to Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) in New York has increased at an alarming rate recently. It is critical that resources be brought to bear to develop a state-wide strategy to conserve the hemlock resources now, before it is too late.

The Hemlock Initiative is currently funded to work within the Finger Lakes region, but we are involved with hemlock conservation around the state, and are happy to provide information or connect organizations around New York.  Our current projects are development of training materials for volunteer groups, establishing connections with Finger Lakes organizations and individuals with an interest in hemlock conservation, and organizing a hemlock prioritization workshop in 2016.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Guest Column: Pa.’s Budget Crisis Threatens Penn State Extension Program

Please let our Pennsylvania state legislators and the governor's office know you support funding for Penn State Extension. Below is an editorial written by Rick Ebert. Rick is the president of the PennsylvaniaFarm Bureau. At the bottom of Rick's letter he provides a link where you can go to find a draft letter in support of Extension programming. If you feel as Rick does please take a moment to respond to your local legislators. Read on, thank you.

By Rick Ebert, Times Guest Columnist
Posted: 02/29/16

I can hear my father’s words quite plainly today. When explaining to me the difference between cost and value, he’d say what I’m sure many of us have heard before: “You get what you pay for.” So the recent announcement by Penn State President Eric Barron that our land grant university might be forced to shutter the doors of extension offices in all 67 counties shouldn’t really surprise us.

Eight months into the fiscal year, the commonwealth has not made a single payment to Penn State Extension, for the multitude of service they provide to ensure food safety and enhance plant and animal health.

After vetoing two previous budget proposals last year, the governor decided to line-item veto the Legislature’s third proposal, in order to disperse some public funds to keep public schools and human services functioning. As a result of the line-item veto, funding for PSU Cooperative Extension and Research, along with other agricultural priorities, have been zeroed out of the existing state spending plan that was supposed to run from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

But the hard-working men and women of Penn State Extension, and the value they provide to farm families, consumers and more than 90,000 4-H youth across the state, should not be used as leverage in a political “game of chicken.” Penn State Extension’s true impact is impossible to measure. But what our land grant university does for farm families – and the entire community – is a value we can’t afford to lose.

Over the past eight months, I’ve been engaged in many conversations with lawmakers and cabinet officials about this issue. And it seems to me that all sides – Republicans and Democrats, legislators and members of the administration – agree that Penn State Extension plays a vitally important and necessary role in protecting the safety of food, plants, animals and humans in our state.

It’s also evident to me that all sides in this multi-lateral negotiation believe the cost of Penn State Extension – little more than one-tenth of one percent of the entire state budget – is well worth the state’s investment. Farm Bureau does acknowledge the previous actions by the legislature to include funding for Penn State Extension in budget legislation, but unfortunately, there is nothing yet to celebrate. No reason to applaud.

As most of us in agriculture know, Penn State began as the “Farmers’ High School,” and its charge was to apply scientific principles to farming. But, if the legislative and executive branches of our state government are unable to come together – soon – to solve the budget crisis for Penn State Extension and Research, Pennsylvania may very well become the FIRST state in the nation to lose our Land Grant University!

I don’t use these words lightly. Without state funding for Extension, which is used to attract twice as much funding from federal sources, not only is Penn State Extension at risk of closing its doors, but the entire College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State faces a bleak future.
I refuse to accept this as an acceptable outcome, and hope that farm families across the state share in my outrage.

Agriculture is constantly facing a variety of challenges beyond our control, such as volatile market prices, overzealous regulations and devastating weather conditions. Losing our land grant because of politics is preventable. Farmers can make a difference and influence this outcome. Our elected officials – all of them – must take swift action preventing the closure of Extension offices and the furlough of Extension agents in all 67 counties.

Whether you’re a Farm Bureau member of not, I encourage you to go to  where a draft message is ready for you to send to your state representative, your state senator and the governor.

Help us Save PSU ag!

Rick Ebert is president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, located in Camp Hill.