Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Effort

Interestingly enough I came across both of these related articles today and decided to share them with my readers. It seems we need to do a better job in our efforts at reducing the amount of non-point source pollution, predominantly from farms, reaching the Chesapeake Bay. As noted in the first article Pennsylvania needs to increase the number of farms under nutrient management plans and continue planting many more acres of forest and grass buffers along streams. In addition, the second article highlights a curriculum I use entitled "The Woods In Your Backyard." This curriculum is focused on landowner with 20 acres or less. It encourages them to begin managing their woodlots with a focus on getting rid of the mega-lawns in an effort to reduce pollution to the Chesapeake.

EPA Chief calls Pennsylvania’s Lagging Bay Cleanup “discouraging”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged this week that Pennsylvania had not done enough to control pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, and said that her agency needed to coordinate with agriculture officials to change the course.

Pennsylvania’s lack of progress is “discouraging at the very least,” McCarthy told hundreds of environmental activists, government officials and foundation leaders attending the Choose Clean Water Coalition conference in Annapolis. “I need to talk to the USDA as well,” she added, to applause, “because there is work that needs to be done.”

EPA officials and the states involved in the Bay cleanup have known for years that Pennsylvania lagged behind. But a report released last June showed the Keystone State would need to double the number of farm acres under nutrient management and plant seven times as many acres of forest and grass buffers as it did in 2014 to meet its interim reduction targets under EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load pollution diet.

Pennsylvania contributes a large share of the pollution loads to the Chesapeake Bay, and agriculture is the bulk of that. The state has 35,000 farms in the Potomac and Susquehanna watersheds, according to Richard Batiuk, associate director of science, analysis and implementation for the Chesapeake Bay Program. Many of these farms are small dairy farms, exempt from the Clean Water Act regulations of animal farms because they are too small to meet the thresholds. Some are also Amish and Old Order Mennonite operations, and those farmers are hesitant to take government funds to modernize their operations to control pollution.

Pennsylvania officials unveiled earlier this year a plan to “reboot” the state’s lagging Bay cleanup effort by vastly increasing farm inspections and finding new sources of funding.

For the rest of the story click here.

Small woodlots are a big deal to the Chesapeake’s restoration

The commencement of spring is always a significant moment in our Chesapeake forests. Buds swell, ready to break dormancy and add the first of the year’s growth to the canopy while green hues begin to emerge from the forest floor.

It is also significant for forest enthusiasts who, themselves, are breaking from the wintertime’s stupor. For me, spring always provokes an eagerness to get out into the woods just to be there.

It is no wonder that there are many springtime events honoring trees, from maple syrup festivals and the National Cherry Blossom Festival that recognize specific attributes of particular species to Arbor Day, which simply celebrates all of the services that trees and forests provide: cleaning our air, creating habitat, contributing to our economy and providing recreation.

There is little debate as to how crucial forest functions are to the quality of our streams, rivers and the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program model estimates that our woodlands prevent more than 180 million pounds of nitrogen from reaching the Chesapeake each year. Around 80 percent of these forests are owned by more than 900,000 private landowners or entities.

Since the 1980s, the region has been losing forest land at a rate of 100 acres per day to development. The forests that remain are more fragmented than ever and face new pressures: invasive plants and pests, diseases, browsing by deer, high-grade harvesting (cut the best and leave the rest) and air pollution. All of these reduce our forests’ ability to provide the vital ecosystem services we depend on to help us restore the Chesapeake.

Although total forest acres are decreasing throughout the Chesapeake region, the number of private forest owners is increasing as land is often divided or sold off in smaller parcels.

For the rest of the story click here. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

PA Game Commission Offers Support for Sunday Hunting Legislation

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today offered testimony to legislators on an issue important to the state’s hunters and trappers. Game Commission Deputy Executive Director Bryan J. Burhans testified before the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee about the potential expansion of Sunday hunting. The testimony is provided in full below:

 “Thank you Chairman Scavello, Chairman Brewster, and members of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee for the opportunity to come before you today in regards to the expansion of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania.  I am Bryan Burhans, Deputy Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.”

To be clear, we are in fact talking about the expansion of Sunday hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania.  Currently hunting on Sundays is permitted on a very limited basis in terms of species, but it is legal every Sunday throughout the year, not just the typical hunting season.  I believe that point bears repeating – every Sunday throughout the year. We have one of the most restrictive laws for Sunday hunting, and it is important to note that only four states currently prohibit Sunday hunting altogether – Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware.

Contrary to some rhetoric that is floating around out there, the No. 1 reason that people stop hunting is lack of time.  The overwhelming majority of hunting takes place on Saturdays; people work during the week, don’t get a lot of time off, have other commitments, etc.  For a lot of hunters the only option is Saturday. By expanding Sunday hunting, we would be able to increase recreational opportunities for hunters.  Sunday hunting is an effective means of recruiting new hunters and retaining current hunters by increasing the value of the hunting license through offering additional opportunities to spend time in the field.

In a recent survey of lapsed hunters – those who at one time bought a license – 49 percent stated that having the opportunity to hunt on Sunday would encourage them to buy a license again.  Without having the ability to schedule seasons to include one of the days when individuals have the most amount of time available, the PGC is limited regarding what it can do to recruit and retain hunters.
Unfortunately, we know of many cases where Pennsylvania residents, particularly near the state lines, don’t even purchase a Pennsylvania hunting license.  Instead, they opt to drive an hour or so to hunt in Ohio or New York because they are able maximize the time they have available by hunting both Saturday and Sunday. 

Likewise, we miss out on license sales to non-resident hunters because they don’t want to come to Pennsylvania to only be allowed to hunt on Saturday. Youth participation is vital to maintaining the long-standing tradition of hunting in Pennsylvania.  Over the past decade, we have worked to increase hunting opportunities for the youth; mentored youth hunting, early rifle season for deer, additional junior hunting privileges, early opening day for spring gobbler, junior pheasant hunts, junior waterfowl hunts, etc.

With a plethora of other activities vying for their time, especially during the week, and more and more activities taking place on Saturdays, it is difficult for young hunters to get out.  Even to assume that they have Saturday free, many hunters don’t want to drive a few hours to camp just for one day to hunt. We can effectively double the number of hunting days for youths during the school year by offering Sunday hunting.

Suppose you couldn’t golf on Sundays, or ski resorts were required to close on Sundays.  Would that be enough to drive the number of participants down?  Maybe a better question would be, to what degree would that drive participation down?  If you think about it, on a nice Sunday during the summer, just about any golf course is going to be booked with tee times from sun-up to well into the evening. The PGC recognizes that other recreational user groups are paying close attention to this issue as they have been for years – groups like the hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, among others.  These groups advocate for just one day per week that they can recreate as they choose without the fear of a hunting related incident or accident.

The truth of the matter is that these groups recreate 365 days per year, including Saturdays and Sundays during hunting seasons.  They recreate on State Game Lands, State Forests, at State Parks, and in the Allegheny National Forest; all lands where hunting is permitted. It is important to note that despite the inaccurate portrayal by these groups, hunting is an inherently safe sport.  In fact, over the past decade, hunting related shooting incidents have decreased by half.  In 2015, the total number of hunting related shooting incidents was 23.  Out of nearly 935,000 hunters, 23 incidents represents less than one one-thousandth of 1 percent.

We have heard from many people on both sides of the issue, hunters and non-hunters.  I can tell you that a majority of those that we hear from support Sunday hunting.  Where the difference is lies with what season they want Sunday hunting implemented.  Rest assured, that if given the authority to further regulate Sunday hunting, the PGC would be looking for input from a wide variety of stakeholder groups and will endeavor to engage these stakeholders before passing any new regulations in regard to Sunday hunting. Additionally, Sunday hunting will provide substantial economic benefits to rural areas and businesses by increasing money spent by hunters on lodging, food, gas and other incidental items.

According to the 2010 report by Southwick Associates, prepared for the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee: In 2010, if Sunday hunting were permitted, considering spending and economic multipliers...  “Spending by all hunters would likely have increased by $460.0 million. The multiplier effects of that spending would have produced $803.6 million of total output in the Pennsylvania economy and supported 7,439 jobs with $247.4 million of salary and wage income. The increased activity would have generated $56.8 million in tax revenue to state and local governments and $60.7 million in federal tax revenues.”

By nature, Sunday hunting is what is commonly referred to as a blue law.  Blue laws are antiquated, religious-based laws that were originally designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities in order to encourage a day of worship or rest.  To date, all but two blue laws in Pennsylvania have been repealed: the complete ability to hunt on Sundays, and the option to purchase a vehicle. 
In 1937, the Legislature repealed the blue law that made it illegal to fish on Sundays.  The law was changed so that fishermen were permitted to openly fish any public waters, and allowed to fish private waters with the permission of the landowner.

According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s historical records, “The Bureau of Law Enforcement reports that relatively few landowners take action to restrict fishing on Sundays, but anglers should respect "Sunday Fishing Prohibited" signs where they are posted. A person who violates a Sunday fishing restriction commits a summary offense of the third degree.” The PGC is willing to work with landowners who choose to not allow Sunday hunting on their land, even going as far as providing the corresponding signage at no cost to those landowners enrolled in our public access programs.  We are also willing enforce a Sunday hunting restriction for landowners, much like PFBC agreed to when their blue law was repealed.

Today, with the exception of hunters, every single person in Pennsylvania has the ability to recreate as they choose every day of the week.  In 1937, it was determined that fishermen should be allowed to recreate as they choose any day of the week.  It wasn’t mandated that you had to fish on Sundays, but you had the option.  Almost 80 years later, we are asking for the same consideration.  A considerable majority of hunters want the ability to recreate as they choose to on Sunday.  If an individual chooses not to, that is absolutely fine as well.  The time has come and hunters deserve the option. Thank you again for your consideration.  I would be happy to take any questions you may have.”

Release #39-16
May 18, 2016
For Information Contact:
Travis Lau

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Does Your State Need Future Forest Stewards?

Penn State Extension offers a new program to teach youth about forests and the concept of good forest stewardship.

If we are going to have productive and healthy forests in the future, we need future forest stewards today. This is the reason Penn State Extension is offering a new, free program to teach youth about forests and the concept of forest stewardship. The program, Future Forest Steward is a successor to the Junior Forest Steward Program they offered for 10 years with great success. Focusing on youth to embrace forest stewardship today is nothing new to Extension.

According to Sanford Smith, Penn State Extension natural resources and youth-education specialist, Pennsylvania youth often know very little about the forests and natural areas that cover the state. “We have been committed to getting kids excited about, and interested in Penn's Woods for many years,” he says.

Future Forest Steward is designed for implementation by teachers, youth-group leaders, and other adults working with youth. Penn State Extension is now seeking interested adults to help facilitate the program. “The adults we need do not have to be naturalists or forestry experts to carry out the Future Forest Steward program,” Smith explains. “An interest and willingness to learn right along with youth is the only thing we require. The program is suitable for both formal and non-formal educational settings.”

The program format is also flexible. Young participants 1) read an interactive publication (individually or as a group), 2) discuss the questions, and then 3) participate in a forest stewardship activity led by the adult educator or helper. A guide for adults accompanies the publication and provides answers to questions and ideas for activities that participating youth and adults can undertake.

After participants complete the three steps, their adult helpers send in a short “tally-sheet” and the youth receive an embroidered Future Forest Steward patch as an award and reminder of what they learned. The program raises awareness of forest stewardship and the importance of being a steward of the natural world. “After all, today's Future Forest Stewards will be responsible for the forests that give Pennsylvania its very name, and they will pass them on to future generations,” said Smith.

For questions about the program, contact Sanford Smith. To request copies of the Future Forest Steward publication and adult guide, contact Penn State's Renewable Natural Resources Extension Office at 814-863-0401 or RNRext@psu.edu. Downloadable versions of the curriculum materials can also be found online.

Contact Sanford Smith

Phone: 814-865-4261