Monday, September 30, 2019

Bay Journal: Rare Chesapeake Logperch Released Into Chiques Creek, Lancaster County

By Ad Crable, Chesapeake Bay Journal

Just a few miles from where they were first discovered in 1842, about 100 globally rare Chesapeake logperch, raised in captivity, were released with great fanfare September 27 into a tributary of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, PA.
A phalanx of government officials and members of conservation groups, all holding cameras, stood by in waders and rolled-up pants as the 1.5-inch fingerlings were eased into the sun-dappled riffles from oxygenated plastic bags and sent on their way.
The day before, biologists had taken steps to give the fish their best chance of survival: They gently electro-shocked the water to raise other fish to the surface and captured 15 species that might compete with-- or eat-- the new releases. 
The species of concern were relocated to the mainstem of the river, said Doug Fischer, a biologist with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
It was a milestone just one year into a four-year project to reintroduce the tiny member of the perch family to a handful of Susquehanna tributaries in southern Pennsylvania. The hope is to keep the fish off the federal endangered species list.
So far, the project is going swimmingly. From 28 fish captured in March from three Pennsylvania streams just north of the Maryland line, about 1,500 fingerlings were raised in propagation tanks in Tennessee and at Penn State University, along with sand and pebbles from their home streams.
About 800 of them were stocked last week over two days into Chiques Creek, just a few miles from where botanist Samuel S. Haldeman discovered the logperch species in 1842. The fish disappeared from the creek long ago, probably the result of a combination of dams, which block their spawning runs, and pollution.
Haldeman reported his findings and described the fish’s zebralike dark bars to the nation’s nascent scientific community. But the fish were mistakenly lumped in with other logperch darters. 
Then, in 2008, DNA testing proved that Haldeman’s fish was a separate species that only lived in the mainstem of the lower Susquehanna in Maryland and Pennsylvania and its tributaries, as well as the lower Potomac River drainage in Virginia. As such, it earned a new name: the Chesapeake logperch.
None have been found in the Potomac Basin since 1938. But they were  found in recent years in a handful of Susquehanna tributaries in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The discovery set off a save-the-Chesapeake logperch effort with partners that include the state fishery agencies in Pennsylvania and Maryland, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pennsylvania Biological Survey, Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Fund, Susquehanna River Basin Commission and others.
Adult logperch captured from three Lancaster County streams were sent to a rearing facility in Knoxville, TN, run by Conservation Fisheries, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to propagating nongame fish, many of them imperiled species. 
The fish reproduced better than anyone had hoped. Later, the young were transported to Penn State to fatten up and be close to stocking sites.
This fall, project managers have begun returning Chesapeake logperch to native streams from which they had long vanished. The fish were tested to make sure they were not carrying any diseases or parasites.
Releases will be into tributaries instead of the river because scientists said they believed the fish could find each other more easily.
Also, by releasing the young logperch in Chiques Creek, scientists hope that the fish will imprint on the creek and return in another two years or so when they are ready to spawn. 
To find out, the little logperch are fitted with color-coded tags so they can be identified later as part of the group released into Chiques Creek.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Jay Stauffer, a professor of ichthyology at Penn State University. “We have every reason to believe they will reproduce and this project will be a success.” 
Stauffer first caught Chesapeake logperch as a teen doing volunteer work in 1969. At the time, he had no idea he was handling a rare fish and would later be involved in the effort to bring them back.
The team will be working for another three years to propagate logperch and reintroduce them into perhaps three more home waters devoid of the species. 
To begin a new round of propagation, they have already captured about 50 adult logperch in a different in Lancaster County stream and in another stream across the Susquehanna in York County.
They’ll also be monitoring the activities of released fish.
One sign of success will be finding the released, tagged fish later swimming as adults in the Susquehanna. That will be an elusive search, but scientists will use scuba divers, underwater drones and low dosage electric nets to aid their quest.

Reprinted from Chesapeake Bay Journal.)
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DCNR Posts Recommendations For Shaping State Parks Over Next 25 Years For Public Comment

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has posted its Penn’s Parks For All - Planning for Pennsylvania’s State Parks of Tomorrow report which makes recommendations for managing and improving state parks over the next 25 years for public comment.
[Note: DCNR is also developing the next update to the Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan which is a separate, broader initiative covering local, regional and state recreation experiences and needs.]
DCNR developed the Plan after two years of collecting and analyzing data from surveys-- including a special ethnicity survey focused on Latio, African American and Asian Pennsylvanians-- as well as interviews and its own research.
Among the issues the Plan addresses are--
-- Operating 121 parks with decreasing resources
-- Threats to park resources, including deteriorating buildings, flooding, visitor overuse
-- Changes in recreation interests
-- Changing population demographics
-- Impacts of climate change on state parks
Survey Findings
The findings in the surveys taken as part of the planning process include--
-- State parks should continue to emphasize healthful outdoor recreation activities
-- Visitors should expect a quiet, natural and/or wild experience
-- 79 percent said resort-style develop was inappropriate for state parks
-- DCNR should designate campground areas for quiet, wild and remote camping experiences
-- DCNR should continue its strategic land acquisition program
-- State parks should invest more resources in volunteer and friends group programs
-- A constraint on visitation to state parks by Blacks was found to be lack of transportation and public transportation access
-- Strong support for increased funding to maintain, repair and improve park facilities without creating new fees or increasing costs to park visitors
Future Directions
Among the recommended future directions for the parks are--
-- Enhance landscape-level partnerships to improve regional recreation, tourist, conservation activities
-- Improve each park’s tail system
-- Enhance water-based recreational offerings consistent with natural aesthetics
-- Improve accessibility for water-based recreation
-- Partner with the health industry in marketing state park activities
-- Add more rental cabins and pet-friendly campsites
-- Renovate campground to enhance natural character, sustainability, safety
-- Reduce energy consumption by 25 percent, set 50 percent renewable energy goal
-- Develop a night sky management program to enhance sky viewing
-- Collaborate with public/private partners to improve local watersheds
-- Improve volunteer programs
-- Expand native habitats
-- Increase professional staff levels by 15 percent to meet legislative mandate
-- Increase employee diversity
-- Ensure funding continues from the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship funds
-- Both DCNR and the PA Parks & Forests Foundation have documented a backlog of $1 billion in maintenance and needed safety and other improvements to recreation facilities in state parks and forests.
A complete copy of the Plan and recommendations as well as other information on public surveys made as part of the planning process are available at DCNR’s Penn’s Parks For All webpage.
DCNR will be accepting comments through December 31.
Click Here to submit comments on the plan recommendations or send them to DCNR Bureau of State Parks, Planning Section, P.O. Box 8551, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8551.
  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.
PA Parks & Forests Foundation Urges MORE Investment, No Backsliding On Parks & Forests Project Funding
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Sept. 30 PA Environment Digest: Grants & Awards, Calendar Of Events, Last Week’s NewsClips, Regs-Guidance-Permits

The September 30 PA Environment Digest includes an updated list of Grants and Awards to support your projects; Calendar of Events/ Public Participation Opportunities; links to Environment and Energy NewsClips you might have missed from last week; and a summary of Regulation, Technical Guidance and Permit-related notices in the September 28 PA Bulletin.

DCNR: Additional State Forest Roads Opening Throughout The State For Hunting Seasons, Other Outdoor Activities

Hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts heading into Pennsylvania’s state-owned woodlands this autumn will find additional roads open in 18 of the 20 state forest districts, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced September 30.
“This improved accessibility, coupled with our promotion of deer hunting, benefits forest regeneration and the overall ecosystem,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “As a result, DCNR is opening 516 miles of state forest roads normally open only for administrative use. They again will be available to hunters, hikers, foliage viewers, and others visiting state forestlands this fall.” 
More than 3,000 miles of state forest roadways will be open during the statewide archery deer season, which opens Saturday, October 5, and closes Saturday, November 16. They will continue to stay open through other hunting seasons continuing into January 2020.  
“Regardless of whether they seek deer, bear, turkey or small game, hunters in our state forests will find more than 90 percent of that land now is within one-half mile of an open road,” said Dunn.  
With the hunter in mind, DCNR and the Game Commission continue to update a new interactive map of state forestlands and game lands across Pennsylvania. 
The map offers information on the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) and Disease Management Areas, and details on newly opened roads, timber harvesting activity, forestry office contacts, and more. 
Meanwhile, top-quality hunting is offered at many state parks -- especially those in the 12.5-county Pennsylvania Wilds region -- where state forestland often surrounds them. Inexpensive camping can be found at many of those parks.  
Primitive camping on state forestlands also is an option, giving hunters a backcountry camping or hunting experience. Camping permits, issued by the managing forest district, are required when camping on state forestlands on designated sites.  
Many of these campsites are close to state parks and forestlands enrolled in the Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program, permitting hunters to take one antlerless deer or more when properly licensed.  
Hunters are reminded the Game Commission has established Disease Management Areas (DMAs) to reduce the risk of spreading chronic wasting disease. 
Three DMAs currently exist in Pennsylvania; however, newly confirmed cases can alter the boundaries. All or portions of Buchanan, Gallitzin, Rothrock, Tuscarora, Michaux, Bald Eagle, Moshannon, and William Penn state forests, as well as several state parks, fall within DMAs 2, 3, and 4.  
Hunters harvesting deer in a DMA should be aware of special rules and regulations apply, and they should have their deer tested for the disease. Additional information on CWD is provided by the Game Commission
Also, hunters traveling to some northcentral areas of the state are reminded hunting areas and travel routes may be impacted by last year’s severe weather and/or Marcellus Shale-related activities. 
Some state forest roads may be temporarily closed during drilling operations or other peak periods of heavy use to reduce potential safety hazards. 
A few roads are closed long-term for reconstruction. Travelers are reminded to check state forest advisory pages for potential closures. 
Visit DCNR’s Hunting In State Forests and Parks webpage for more information.
  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.

Bay Journal: Chesapeake Bay Restoration Goals A Greater Challenge For PA - DEP Secretary McDonnell

By Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake Bay Journal

Perhaps it was fitting that on a morning when he felt an illness coming on, and a marching band was creating an unrelenting din outside the window, Pat McDonnell sat down to explain Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.
After all, nothing about the state’s Bay involvement has been easy. The state doesn’t touch the Chesapeake, but is its largest polluter. Half of its landmass drains into the Bay, but less than a third of the state’s population lives there.
Nonetheless, when asked how much of his time the Chesapeake consumes, McDonnell, the state’s environment secretary, replied: “A lot.”
“I came into this job as an air and energy guy and have primarily been a water quality guy for the last three years in terms of the work,” he said.
The state has fallen so far behind in its Bay cleanup obligations that it has threatened the success of the regional effort and spurred the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ramp up its oversight in recent years.
It’s unclear whether the state’s latest cleanup plan will help the situation. Released Aug. 23, it fails to meet the state’s pollution reduction goal for nitrogen by more than 9 million pounds a year.
The plan also outlines a $324 million-a-year shortfall in the funds needed to meet its goals.
The EPA established goals for reducing nutrient pollution in each jurisdiction in the Bay watershed in 2010, when it issued the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, often called the Bay’s “pollution diet.” 
The TMDL targets the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, which are responsible for algae blooms that cloud the Bay’s water and fuel its oxygen-starved “dead zone.” Nitrogen has proven the most problematic to control.
The TMDL allows for more federal oversight than earlier cleanup plans that first aimed at cleaning the Bay by 2000 and then by 2010. Both fell well short of their goals.
If the EPA concludes that Pennsylvania’s new plan does not provide reasonable assurance that it will reach its goal, the agency can take a variety of additional actions. 
Among the options are increasing oversight, extending regulatory authority over more entities, and requiring more pollution reductions from dischargers with permits, such as wastewater treatment plants.
Under the TMDL, the state needs to reduce the amount of nitrogen it sends to the Bay from 112.71 million pounds a year in 2009 to 73.18 million pounds in 2025.
Through 2018, Pennsylvania had taken only enough actions to reduce nitrogen runoff to 107.36 million pound a year, according to computer model estimates from the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program. 
Most of that enters the Bay through the Susquehanna River and a smaller portion from the Potomac.
Because of its poor performance, the state’s remaining reduction is more than is required from the rest of the watershed combined from now through 2025.
In an interview, McDonnell acknowledged the state’s shortfall in meeting Bay commitments, but he disputed that its plan was incomplete.
“I disagree with the characterization,” McDonnell said. The state, he insisted, is not getting credit for some actions that are helping to reduce pollution, such as reclaiming abandoned mine lands, fixing streams tainted by acid mine drainage or constructing wetlands for mitigation projects. 
“The projects that we have done have been undercounted,” McDonnell said.
Further, he said farmers and others have implemented far more runoff control practices than the state is getting credit for. Other states also contend in their plans that they are not getting enough credit for cleanup actions already taken.
McDonnell said, and others agree, that Pennsylvania’s new plan has put a huge effort into working with local governments to develop county-based plans to garner local support for initial implementation. 
Many criticized the cleanup plan Pennsylvania created after the TMDL was first issued in 2010 as a top-down document drafted by officials out of touch with on-the-ground realities.
It contributed to the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau helping to initiate an ultimately unsuccessful suit challenging the TMDL.
Now, the Farm Bureau has been an active participant in developing the latest plan, along with conservation districts, local governments and others.
“We are going to have to engage in this parcel-by-parcel and site-by-site, which is why the county action plans and the local engagement are so important,” McDonnell said. “It is bringing exactly the people we need into the discussion, into the room, to help both drive the message and drive the action.”
It’s a major challenge. Less than a tenth of Pennsylvania’s nitrogen comes from wastewater treatment plants-- which have been the go-to source for pollution reductions in Virginia and Maryland-- and most of Pennsylvania’s plants have now been upgraded.
That means Pennsylvania must engage thousands of farmers and hundreds of local governments to secure future nutrient reductions. Pennsylvania has 33,000 farms, more than any other state, as well as more runoff from developed land, much of it coming from small communities not covered by stormwater permits.
But the first four county plans to be completed, covering Lancaster, York, Adams and Franklin counties, failed to meet their nutrient reduction goals. 
Still, if they implement actions outlined in their plans, it would reduce the amount of nitrogen reaching the Bay by almost 10 million pounds-- nearly twice what the state as a whole has accomplished since the TMDL went into effect.
Pennsylvania’s plan has been more specific about financial needs than plans of other states. About $197 million a year in state and federal money has gone toward Bay-related efforts, but the plan says another $324 million a year is needed.
McDonnell said the funding gap includes not only state money, but also federal and local funds, as well as investments from farmers who share the cost in implementing runoff control practices. 
But, “we do need funding,” he added.
Getting money from the Republican-dominated legislature, which has often been at odds with the Democratic governor, has been a challenge and funding for environmental programs has been declining over the years. 
Even legislation that has passed in both Maryland and Virginia to regulate lawn fertilizer has languished in the Pennsylvania General Assembly for eight years.
But the state has had self-inflicted problems, too, including trouble getting millions of dollars in federal grant money out the door to support cleanup work. On September 10, the EPA sent a letter to McDonnell dictating how unspent money was to be used.
McDonnell said the state is trying to do a better job of targeting where money is spent, putting initial emphasis on the first four counties that developed pilot plans.
“With Lancaster County, it’s no secret it is almost a quarter of the lift,” he said. “We are very focused on providing resources in these kinds of areas to not only improve the water quality in those counties, but to meet our Bay obligations.”
Indeed, McDonnell contends that if the state can start getting more conservation practices on the ground, and people see improved local stream health, it will spur more action.
“We are having positive impacts in terms of programs we are having,” he said. “There is a need to accelerate that for sure, and that is what the plan gives us.”
[For more information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to reduce pollution going to the Bay visit DEP’s PA Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage.
[For more information, visit the EPA  Chesapeake Bay Program webpage.]
(Photo: DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.)
(Reprinted from Chesapeake Bay Journal.)
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