Friday, May 24, 2019

DCNR, Mid State Trail Association Celebrate Mid State Trail As PA's 2019 Trail Of The Year

On May 24, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined Mid State Trail Association members and other hiking enthusiasts in celebrating the designation of the Mid State Trail as Pennsylvania’s 2019 Trail of the Year.
The Mid State Trail is Pennsylvania’s longest trail. Its 327 miles traverse some of Pennsylvania’s most remote and scenic areas, and stretch from the Maryland to New York borders.
“Drawn by the natural beauty that captures the essence of Pennsylvania’s wild places, thousands of hiking enthusiasts take to the Mid State each year, regardless of the season,” Dunn told trail supporters gathered at Raymond B. Winter State Park. “In their quest for everything from gentle rail-trail travel to rigorous rocky climbs, these travelers are an economic boon to the many small business communities near the trail.”
Improved by DCNR investments totalling almost $1.5 million, the trail saw a major three-phase project completed in 2015 on the Union-Centre county line.
Work included: rehabilitation work on an old railroad bridge spanning Penns Creek; lining of the Poe Paddy Tunnel; and resurfacing of the trail approaching both the bridge and tunnel. Earlier, $178,800 financed Yellow Creek Bridge construction in Bedford County.
Hiking enthusiasts say the Mid State Trail’s sheer length offers more challenges to hikers than any other trail in the state. Sometimes-difficult hiking takes travelers through isolated forests and past historic sites, vistas, waterfalls and natural springs.
“As an all-volunteer organization, we rely upon and value the co-operation and partnership we get from the DCNR professionals at its Bureau of State Parks and Bureau of Forestry,” said Mid State Trail Association President Ed Lawrence. “Our goal is to maintain the Mid State Trail as a sustainable recreational resource for the entire community, one that provides a natural pathway today and into the future.”
Pennsylvania is a leader in trail development, providing its citizens and visitors with more than 12,000 miles of trails across the Commonwealth, from gentle pathways threading through miles of preserved greenways, to remote, rugged trails scaling the state’s mountains.
Each year, the Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee designates a Trail of the Year to help build enthusiasm and support for both large and small trails, and raise public awareness about the value of Pennsylvania’s trail network.
The Mid State Trail was created to foster simple, natural experiences that foster a greater respect for nature and a will to protect for future generations.
Largely on public land, the trail passes through eight state parks; five state forests; eight state forest Natural Areas; four state forest Wild Areas; four state forest picnic areas; two Scout camps and one roadside rest.
The Mid State Trail is divided into four distinct regions. Traveling from the south, hikers pass through the Everett Region, State College Region, Woolrich Region, and Tioga Region.
The trail’s main route, marked by rectangular, orange blazes, also features several long side trails.
The Mid State Trail Association was formed in 1982 to guide the Mid State Trail’s continued growth and protect its future. The association engages many local volunteers who construct and maintain only foot paths.
The Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee is charged with implementing the recommendations of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation, and healthy lifestyles.
The 20-member DCNR-appointed committee represents both motorized and non-motorized trail users and advises the Commonwealth on use of state and federal trail funding.
For more information on trails, visit the Explore PA Trails website.
For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
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DEP Our Commonwealth Blog: Black Fly Suppression Program Underway

By: Elizabeth Rementer, DEP Press Secretary

As warmer weather returns, so do black flies - a pest that can inundate folks seeking outdoor recreation, especially around rivers and streams.
Also known as gnats or buffalo gnats, black fly populations have increased in the past few decades as the rivers, lakes, and streams where they breed have gotten cleaner.
So, while it's good news that our waterways have improved, it also means an uptick in flies, which can be a nuisance when you're trying to enjoy the outdoors.
Fortunately, the Department of Environmental Protection is taking steps to control black flies in a safe and effective way through its annual Black Fly Suppression Program.
This year, DEP will be working along 1,700 miles of 48 rivers and streams in 35 participating counties, and operations will occur once every 10 to 15 days until funding is exhausted.
The program is open to any county that requests the program. Counties typically request this based on residents' complaints, so if you have a black fly problem in your area, contact your county or submit an online complaint to the DEP.
Black fly spraying first started in 1983 along the Susquehanna River in Dauphin County in response to several years of citizen complaints in the Harrisburg area; in fact, a group of Harrisburg citizens formed a group called "Neighbors Against Gnats."
DEP uses Bti, a naturally occurring bacterium, to treat the pests in their larval stage. Bti is not only effective at controlling black flies, it's also not harmful to the environment. It degrades quickly and does not harm the aquatic ecosystem, birds, or other insects.
It's also not harmful to humans. If you come in contact with it, simply wash with soap and water.
The spraying takes place in the air and on the ground, so keep an eye out for a spray operation if you're on or near a waterway.
The helicopter pilots that treat the larger streams and rivers watch for boaters, tubers, and anyone fishing and adjust where they spray when they see people.
If you see a low flying helicopter, just make yourself visible so the pilot can see you and move the spray site. If you see a backpack spray operation, just stay a reasonable distance from the biologists and allow them to work.
Unfortunately, black flies are just a part of summer, but DEP is working across the state to ensure that they're not a total buzzkill during your outdoor activities.
For more information on the program, visit DEP’s Black Fly Suppression Program webpage.
For more information on environmental programs in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s website, Click Here to sign up for DEP’s monthly newsletter, sign up for DEP Connects events, sign up for DEP’s eNotice, visit DEP’s Blog,  Like DEP on Facebook, Follow DEP on Twitter and visit DEP’s YouTube Channel.

DCNR Good Natured Blog: Canoeing & Kayaking PA's Scenic Waterways In The Age Of Climate Change

By: Jim Hyland, District Forester, Tioga State Forest

The great American conservationist, Aldo Leopold, wrote these words in 1940 as development began to swallow up his favorite wilderness areas:
“…perhaps our grandsons, having never seen a wild river, will never miss the chance to set a canoe in singing waters…..glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in.”
But unlike the wilderness waters of the Midwest that this great American conservationist feared lost, waterways that course through Pennsylvania’s state forestlands will remain forever wild.
Your grandchildren’s grandchildren will have this wild country to be young in. No future generation will miss the opportunity to set a canoe in our singing waters, and the music of these waters will only grow sweeter through the ages.
Navigating our wild waterways is not without risk, however, and boaters must take heed.
Increased Rainfall Escalates Danger for Paddlers
Subtle or pronounced increases in annual rainfall can unseasonably swell normally calm creeks and rivers to dangerous levels.
According to National Weather Service data, annual rainfall amounts have steadily been increasing for the past decades, with a very pronounced increase since 1990. The numbers below tell the story.
The chart shows us that since the turn of the 21st Century, rainfall in Pennsylvania has increased on the average of about 10 percent.
What’s more, the National Weather Service reports that rainfall is occurring in brief storm downpours that are up to 70 percent wetter than in previous decades.
Risks That Can Be Encountered When Paddling
For boaters, heavy downpours can lead to increased risk on our waterways. Stream and river levels can rise quickly, and gusty winds in unusually strong thunderstorms can knock trees into the water, creating life threatening “strainers.”
Avoid Strainers
Strainers are typically trees or other debris that are partially submerged in the creek. They block your way but let water strain through.
The most dangerous strainers occur on an outside bend of the creek, where the water volume and current are greater.
The tremendous force of the moving water will pin you against them.
Avoid them at all cost! If you can’t avoid an obstacle, fight to climb on top of it as your boat hits. Get off the strainer as soon as possible, dismounting on the downstream side.
In the Water Heading Towards a Strainer?
At the last second, switch from a foot-first to a headfirst position and swim hard, trying to launch yourself atop the tree to escape the current. Don’t let your body swing parallel to the trunk or allow your boat to pin you.
Dress Appropriately for Water Temperatures
In Pennsylvania, cold water kills people every year. Water temperature averages a very dangerous 50 degrees in the springtime!
Immersion in water this cold can render you helpless in a matter of minutes. Dress appropriately and prepare for the worst! Bring a waterproof drybag with warm, dry clothes!
Leave Rapids and Rocks to the Experts
In the springtime, or when the water level is high, paddlers may encounter Class III rapids in Pennsylvania, which means that passage can be difficult, and best left to experts.
Go ashore and inspect before attempting passage, or portage (carry your boat) around to be safe.
Know and Abide by Rules and Regulations
Non-powered boating rules and regulations are in place for your safety. Be familiar and abide by these Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lifesaving rules and regulations:
-- All persons must wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD or life jacket) during the cold weather months from November 1 through April 30 while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.
-- Children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear a life jacket in all canoes and kayaks.
-- All boats must have an approved PFD on board for each person.
-- All operators of unpowered boats (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards) are required to carry a readily available whistle or other sound producing device.
-- Boating under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is illegal, and penalties are the same as while driving!
Additional Paddling Safety Tips
Before you head out to paddle, be sure to check the USGS water level data for the gauge along the stream or river you plan to paddle. Boaters can view the current water level of the creek.
On Pine Creek, for example, readings between 2.5 and 3.5 feet are considered good, and below 2 means that you may scrape bottom in some of the riffles.
Check with your local outfitter, canoe livery, or water trail website for more information.
When you are ready to paddle, be sure to follow these important safety tips:
-- Wear your life jacket -- 80 percent of all recreational boating fatalities happen to people who are not wearing a lifejacket.
-- Expect to get wet -- even the best paddlers sometimes capsize or swamp their boats. Bring extra clothing in a waterproof bag.
-- Be prepared to swim -- if the water looks too hazardous to swim in, don’t go paddling.
-- If you capsize -- hold on to your boat, unless it presents a life-threatening situation. If floating in current, position yourself on the upstream side of the capsized boat.
-- Scout ahead whenever possible -- know the river or stream to avoid surprises.
-- Be prepared for the weather -- get a forecast before you go. Sudden winds and rain are common and can turn a pleasant trip into a risky, unpleasant venture.
-- Wear wading shoes or tennis shoes with wool, polypropylene, pile, or neoprene socks.
-- Never take your boat over a low-head dam -- a deadly mistake, period.
-- Portage (carry) your boat around any section of water about which you feel uncertain.
-- Never boat alone -- boating safety increases with numbers.
-- Keep painter lines (ropes tied to the bow) and any other ropes coiled and secured.
-- Never tie a rope to yourself or to another paddler, especially a child.
-- Kneel to increase your stability before entering rougher water, like a rapid.
-- If you collide with an obstruction, lean toward it -- this will usually prevent your capsizing or flooding the boat.
-- File a float plan with a reliable person indicating where you are going and when you will return. Remember to contact the person when you have returned safely.
For additional information about kayaking and canoeing in Pennsylvania state parks and forests, visit the DCNR Kayaking and Canoeing in State Parks and Forests website.
For more information on this topic, visit DCNR’s Addressing Climate Change On Public Lands webpage.
For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
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French Creek Valley Conservancy Holds River Snorkeling Presentation May 30 In Meadville

Join the French Creek Valley Conservancy for a presentation on river snorkeling on May 30. Underwater naturalist Keith Williams will share his adventures of exploring and discovering the underwater world of rivers and streams in the Mid-Atlantic region.
We often perceive that there isn’t much to see beneath the surface of our nation’s freshwater rivers and streams, but once we look underwater, an incredible world appears. Animals of diverse colors, shapes, and behaviors live in freshwater ecosystems.
The underwater world of our rivers and streams is unexpected, largely unnoticed, and amazing!
Keith Williams is the founding director of education and is the current executive director at NorthBay, one of the largest outdoor education programs in the U.S.
He has developed river snorkeling-based science curriculum, and established river snorkeling programs for non-profits and the U.S. Forest Service. Keith has led thousands of people on river snorkeling adventures.
His first book on river snorkeling, Snorkelhead: Adventures in Creek Snorkeling, was published in June 2016. His second book on river snorkeling is due to be published by Stackpole in 2020.
The event will be held at the First Presbyterian Church, 890 Liberty Street, in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Light refreshments served at 7:00 p.m. with presentation starting at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on programs, initiatives, other upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the French Creek Valley Conservancy website.
(Reprinted from the PA Land Trust Association Blog.)

Northcentral PA Stream Restoration Partnership Projects Underway

After months of planning and prep, the Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership is in the “(muck)boots on the ground” phase of this year’s stream restoration projects.
The team has already completed two stabilized stream crossings, one in Union county and the other in Montour county (photo).
Earlier this week, team partners from the Northumberland and Montour County conservation districts worked with NPC’s new summer intern, Nate Stephens, to plant over 500 live stakes at two sites.
In Northumberland county, they received help from a local Agricultural class. Next week, the team will head back to Union county to kick off a streambank stabilization project in the Buffalo Creek watershed.
The Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership was formed to improve local quality.  
Here’s a quick reminder of all the partnering organizations: Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Department of Environmental Protection-Northcentral Regional Office​, Fish and Boat Commission-Stream Habitat Section and county conservation districts​.​
For more information, and how you can get involved, visit the Northcentral PA Conservancy’s Northcentral Stream Restoration Partnership webpage.
(Reprinted from the PA Land Trust Association Blog.)

POWR: DEP Presentation On Draft Integrated Water Quality Report Showing 40% Of Streams Impaired June 4 In Harrisburg

On May 24, the PA Organization for Watersheds and Rivers announced DEP will hold a presentation on the draft PA Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report on June 4 from 10:30 to Noon in the Auditorium of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg.
Over all, about 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams have impaired water quality for one or more reasons.
On April 18, the Department of Environmental Protection released its 2018 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, the biennial comprehensive analysis of the water quality status of the more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers and more than 160,000 acres of lakes in Pennsylvania required by the federal Clean Water Act.
The report evaluates whether waterbodies across Pennsylvania are achieving the water standards that protect clean water. Streams, lakes, rivers, and other water resources are evaluated on how well each waterway is meeting its assessed use, such as drinking water supply, aquatic life, recreation, and fish consumption.
The report shows agriculture, abandoned mines and stormwater runoff remain the most significant sources of pollution causing the impairment of water quality for aquatic life, the same sources of pollution as in the last assessment in 2016.
Agricultural runoff impairs 5,741 miles of streams (6,421 miles in 2016); abandoned mine runoff impairs 5,576 miles (5,595 miles in 2016); and stormwater runoff impairs 3,066 miles (2,902 miles in 2016).
DEP is accepting public comments on the report until June 4.  Click Here to submit comments through DEP’s eComment webpage or email comments to: Written comments can be mailed to DEP Policy Office, Rachel Carson Office Building, PO Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105.  (formal notice)
For more information on programs, initiatives, other upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the PA Organization for Watersheds and Rivers website.
(Photo: Red is bad.)
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