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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pennsylvania DEP Announces Statewide Surveillance of Ticks

Five-year study to assess risk of tickborne illnesses in Pennsylvania


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that it is conducting a five-year environmental surveillance of ticks to assess the risk of tickborne illnesses across Pennsylvania. Funding for this project is being provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 
 
The survey, which started in July 2018 in coordination with county governments, is part of the Pennsylvania Lyme Disease Task Force recommendations for combatting the growing incidence of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. It is funded annually through the state budget.
 
“Lyme disease affects thousands of Pennsylvanians every year, but ticks are also known to carry other pathogens that could infect humans. This survey will provide important data that will help us better understand these arachnids in our environment and inform Pennsylvanians on how, when and where to avoid getting bitten by a disease-carrying tick,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We want everyone to enjoy the outdoors and take the proper precautions to avoid contact with ticks, and we are proud to support the Lyme Disease Task Force’s efforts to protect Pennsylvanians.”
 
“Lyme disease is a major public health concern in Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Many people believe that Lyme disease, and the ticks that carry the disease, can only be found in wooded areas. However, I know personally, as do many others, that ticks can be found in your backyard, where you walk your dog, or the local park. These surveillance efforts will help us to share with all Pennsylvanians the importance of taking steps to protect yourself.” 
 
The survey is taking place in every county in Pennsylvania to track ticks’ habitats, life stages and peak activity levels and to test them for human pathogenic diseases. Additionally, 38 counties are conducting a specific survey of nymphal blacklegged (Ixodes scapularis) ticks, which can transmit Lyme Disease to humans.
 
Ticks are collected using white felt drags that sample low-lying ground cover and understory vegetation for questing ticks.
 
Fall and winter surveillance focused on analyzing adult blacklegged ticks for emerging and changing disease burdens in public use habitats across Pennsylvania, such as parks, playgrounds or recreational fields.
 
The spring and summer surveillance will focus on collecting three tick species: the blacklegged tick in its immature nymphal stage, when it most often infects humans with Lyme disease, as well as human babesiosis and human granulocytic anaplasmosis; the adult American dog (Dermacentor variabilis) tick, which transmits Rocky Mounted Spotted Fever and Tulameria; and adult lone star (Amblyomma americanum) tick, which transmits Ehrlichiosis and Tularmeria.
 
The nymphal stage of the blacklegged tick causes the most tickborne illness in Pennsylvania due to its size and activity period. It is significantly smaller — about the size of a poppy seed — than the adult and therefore less likely to be discovered on the human body. 
 
“The nymphal stage of the blacklegged tick’s lifespan overlaps with people enjoying the outdoors in the spring and summer,” McDonnell said. “Tracking and testing them at this stage is extremely important because it will allow us to more accurately pinpoint when and where risk of human illness is most prevalent and help prevent cases of Lyme disease in the future.”
 
Since July 1, 2018, DEP collected 3,663 adult black-legged ticks for testing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

PA FISH AND BOAT COMMISSION RECRUITING WATERWAYS CONSERVATION OFFICERS

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is recruiting the 22nd class of Waterways Conservation Officer (WCO) Trainees at its H.R. Stackhouse School of Fishery Conservation and Watercraft Safety.

The State Civil Service Commission (SCSC) will begin accepting applications January 30 until February 19, 2019.

The class of up to 20 trainees is expected to report for training in the summer of 2019 and graduate in the summer of 2020. The most recent previous academy was held in 2015-2016.

Trainees will undergo an extensive 52-week training program encompassing all aspects of conservation law enforcement. Following civil service testing and selection, trainees will first complete a 22-week Municipal Police Officers Basic Training conducted by Pennsylvania State Police at its Northwest Training Center in Meadville, Crawford County. An additional 30 weeks of training is conducted at the Stackhouse school located in Bellefonte, Centre County and includes field training alongside seasoned WCOs. Trainees will assist with investigations, patrol regions, participate in public outreach events and stock waterways.


Applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

     • Pennsylvania residency
     • Possess a valid driver’s license
     • Be at least 21 years of age
     • High School Graduate or GED
     • Pass a criminal history background check

For more information on the position, visit the recruitment page on www.fishandboat.com.
Applications will only be accepted online. To view the announcement and apply, please visit the SCSC website on or after January 30, 2019 at: www.employment.pa.gov.

Friday, March 23, 2018

More Than $1.1 Billion for Sportsmen & Conservation

This revenue is generated by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration (PRDJ) acts from excise taxes paid by the hunting, shooting, boating and angling industries on firearms, bows and ammunition and sport fishing tackle, some boat engines, and small engine fuel

The funds, which are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, support critical state conservation and outdoor recreation projects. To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed more than $20.2 billion in apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects.

You can find apportionment by individual states here:  https://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/WR/WR_Funding.htm

 The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $6.7 billion throughout the years, primarily through hunting and fishing license revenues.





Friday, January 12, 2018

Army Corps announces Francis E. Walter Dam water release schedule

The U.S. Army Corps Engineers’ Philadelphia District released the Flow Management Plan for the Francis E.Walter Dam in White Haven, PA.  
The Francis E. Walter Dam was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1961 and has prevented more than $212 million in flood damages. It also supports recreation in the Lehigh Valley with planned fishing and whitewater rafting water releases.
The Francis E. Walter Dam
 
The multi-year plan is based upon past program performance as well as input received through stakeholders. In 2018, water will again be allocated to ensure whitewater releases from July to late August and fisheries releases from July to early September. Seasonal precipitation and water accumulation will be used for releases later in the season (late August through mid-October).
In 2018, planned dates (22) for fishing releases (target 400 cubic feet per second)* are:
  •  March:   3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31   
  •  April:     1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
  •  May:      5, 6, 13, 20
  •  October:  as provided by end of year release around the weekend of 6-7 October
* Release will be set to match inflow with a target release up to 400 cfs.  Inflow will not be augmented by use of storage to satisfy the 400 cfs target.

In 2018, planned dates (24) for whitewater releases are listed below. All other dates during the recreation season, until the weekend of October 6-7 have a planned fisheries augmentation release of at least 50 cubic feet per second if sufficient water is available.

  • May:             12, 19, 26, 27
  • June:             9, 10, 23, 24
  • July:              7, 8, 21, 22, 28, 29
  • August:         4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25*, 26*
  • September:    1*, 2*
  • October: as provided by end of year releases around the weekend of 6-7 October
*Releases will depend on seasonal precipitation and water accumulation.

**The 6-7 October weekend release is intended to provide a means of releasing any excess water that may have accumulated during the recreation season.  This is the last added increment for the 2018 recreation plan.  Fisheries releases through the season will be accommodated before the final weekend (6-7 October) release will be considered.
 
In 2018, the Army Corps will hold a total of 22 fishing releases and 24 whitewater release dates (four of which are dependent on additional precipitation along with fisheries enhancement releases on all other days during the recreation season). All dates are dependent on hydrologic conditions and the absence of the need for flood control operations. View plan details, including 2019 and 2020 fishing release and whitewater release dates, here. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Pennsylvania's Wildlife Conservation Officers Are Now Officially Game Wardens

For the first time in its 122-year history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will call its law-enforcement officers “state game wardens.”

Effective on January 1, 2018 Pennsylvania will have game wardens. Not that they didn't before, they just called them something different.

“The job titles previously used to describe our field officers – game protector and wildlife conservation officer – didn’t fully identify their unique and diverse responsibilities,” explained Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The goal here is to more clearly identify our officers and their purpose. We believe ‘state game warden’ will help communicate this.

“In addition, this title already is well understood by the public,” Burhans said. “The word ‘warden’ is America’s oldest title for the men and women who serve wildlife in this capacity.”

Since the recodification of the state’s Game and Wildlife Code in 1987, field officers were titled wildlife conservation officers. Prior to that, they were called district game protectors. But neither title resonated with the public. Many never associated them with Game Commission officers
.
Game wardens are known by many different titles depending upon the state wildlife agency for which they work. The titles reflect the varying sets of broad duties they fulfill. Most wardens share a basic duty to enforce the laws that regulate hunting, protect wildlife and the environment. However, their duties extend into education, research and a host of conservation programs.

For example, Pennsylvania game wardens coordinate and supervise Hunter-Trapper Education programs. They also represent the agency at conservation and sportsmen’s club meetings, respond to nuisance wildlife complaints, and deal with injured wildlife and suspected rabid-animal calls. Warden work also includes wildlife surveys, wildlife trap-and-transfer, field research and providing programs to civic groups and public schools.

“It was the variety of work, which has accompanied the position since game protectors were defined by law in 1895, that inspired the former titles our officers have had,” Burhans said.
While wildlife law-enforcement is a core responsibility, fulfillment of an officer’s full range of duties requires significant training and responsibility.

Burhans noted that the public often wonders what our game wardens do outside of the hunting season.

“There is no “off” season for our officers,” he said. “The breadth of responsibilities is what sets game wardens apart from other traditional law-enforcement professionals. Being a game warden requires a very unique person willing and able develop a diversity of skills in support of the agency.”
Burhans said renaming full-time agency officers ‘game wardens’ immediately will help the public know what these officers do.

It’s important to point out, though, that game wardens are sworn peace officers with statewide law-enforcement authority. They are highly trained and equipped as well as any police officer. They are expected to know and follow standards for protecting civil rights, gathering evidence that will hold up in court and prosecute violations of many different laws.

“As one of the most familiar faces of our agency, it is critical that that game wardens are recognized for who they are and what they do,” emphasized Burhans. “Anything less is unacceptable.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Underwater Insects Aid Pennsylvania's DEP in Water Quality Checks

 Macroinvertebrates tell DEP researchers about water pollution and stream health

To the non fly angler they might be considered creepy, but they’re an excellent indicator of water quality– they’re the aquatic insects and animals that live in Pennsylvania’s rivers, lakes, and streams. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is for the first time visualizing benthic macroinvertebrate sampling results from across the state. The data is now publicly available in a GIS viewer with downloadable data sets for the first time as well.

Benthic macroinvertebrates are the insects and animals that spend most, if not all, of their lives underwater. They can be mayflies or midges, crayfish or clams, or one of many other underwater species, and are one of the most important parts of the food chain that fish, birds, and other animals depend on.

“Because they spend almost their entire lives in the water, benthic macroinvertebrates are especially attuned to water quality,” said Dustin Shull, Water Program Specialist for DEP. “They are an excellent way to gauge how healthy a particular section of stream or river is, and help DEP meet our obligations for monitoring water quality. This kind of biological assessment helps DEP see and assess long-term, cumulative effects of stressing factors on an ecosystem.”

Not all streams and rivers are created equal, and DEP has developed unique macroinvertebrate collection methods for freestone streams, limestone streams, and low-gradient streams. DEP uses these differing methods to get a complete picture of how many, what type, and how healthy the invertebrates are in any given habitat.

“DEP and partners have collected thousands of samples, and collect hundreds more every year to continue to deepen our knowledge base on the health of Pennsylvania’s waters,” said Shull.

See examples of the different streams types, the methods used to sample them, and results of the sampling by visiting Looking Below the Surface, DEP’s interactive story map on benthic macroinvertebrates.

“This type of research is vital to decision-making that goes on at DEP,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We use the data collected and analyzed by program staff when we’re looking at how to clean up watersheds and improve water quality in backyards and communities across Pennsylvania. And we want to make sure that Pennsylvania residents can see the data we’re collecting, so they can know more about what is happening in their own area.”

To learn more about benthic macroinvertebrates, sampling, and water quality, please visit http://www.depgis.state.pa.us/macroinvertebrate/index.html

To retrieve sampling data, please visit http://www.depgis.state.pa.us/macroviewer/index.html

Monday, November 27, 2017

New Jersey Becomes the 47th State to Join The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife will have a new tool to use in its ongoing efforts to enforce wildlife laws as the state joins the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

The compact, first developed in western states in the mid-1980s, recognizes the importance of deterrence through the suspension of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and privileges in all member states resulting from violations concerning the pursuit, possession or taking of a wide range of wildlife, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, shellfish, and crustaceans. New Jersey’s membership will begin on December 1.

“This cooperative and proactive interstate strategy will greatly enhance our Division of Fish and Wildlife’s ability to protect and manage our wildlife resources,” said Commissioner Martin. “Any person who has their license privileges suspended in one member state may now also have them suspended in all other member states. In addition, the compact prevents convicted poachers who are under revocation in one state from hunting, fishing, or trapping in other states.”

For the purposes of the compact, the term “license” means any license, permit, or other public document which conveys to the person to whom it was issued the privilege of pursuing, possessing, or taking any wildlife regulated by statute, law, regulation, ordinance, or administrative rule of a participating state.

In New Jersey this definition includes but is not limited to: all-around sportsman, firearm hunting, trapping, bow and arrow, freshwater fishing, recreational crab pot, non-commercial crab dredge and shellfish licenses, various hunting and trapping permits, pheasant & quail and New Jersey waterfowl stamps, striped bass bonus tags, and saltwater registry certificates.

License and privilege suspensions resulting from wildlife violations committed on or after December 1, 2017 in New Jersey may result in the reciprocal suspension of license privileges in member states.  If a person plans to hunt, fish, or trap in another state, and has a license privilege suspension in New Jersey, it is their responsibility to contact the other state to verify if they may legally hunt, fish, or trap there.

New Jersey residents who fail to comply with the terms of a citation or summons issued for a wildlife violation in another member state may face a $50 fine and the suspension of all privileges to take or possess wildlife in New Jersey until the citation has been satisfied. Failing to appear in court or to otherwise answer a ticket or summons issued for such violations will also result in license, permit, and privilege suspension.

“Our agency has been charged with managing New Jersey’s wildlife resources for 125 years and we take this responsibility very seriously,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director Larry Herrighty. “Joining the compact protects New Jersey’s wildlife resources and that of member states by deterring violators from continuing their illegal activities and sends a clear message to all that such behavior will not be tolerated.”
 
The concept of a wildlife violator compact was first advanced in the early 1980s by member states in the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. In 1985 draft compacts were developed independently in Colorado and Nevada. Subsequently, these drafts were merged and the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact was created.

More information on the Compact, including which states are members and which violations with prescribed suspensions will be recognized in New Jersey and shared with member states is available on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website at: www.njfishandwildlife.com/violators_compact.htm

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

New York DEC Announce $50,000 to Study Livingston Manor Flooding

Flood Study Could Help Advance Resiliency Projects

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that the State will provide up to $50,000 for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study in the Sullivan County hamlet of Livingston Manor. Funds will be used to undertake the Livingston Manor Flood Control Feasibility Study. The funding was secured with assistance from Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.

"As climate change fuels more intense and frequent storms that threaten communities and infrastructure across the state, DEC experts are on the frontlines everyday assisting local governments in planning for and advancing important flood resiliency projects," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The Livingston Manor Flood Control Feasibility Study will not only protect this community, it will also improve the natural resources in the Catskills, which are critical to the economic vitality of the region."

"The people who live in Livingston Manor have worked so hard to rebuild and repair flood damage time and time again," Assemblywoman Gunther said. "This study will help find a solution that works for everyone."

"It is with great satisfaction and anticipation that we have been waiting for such needed support from our state agencies. I can't say enough about our Assembly Women Aileen Gunther, who has witnessed first-hand, the devastation of flooding to our communities. Time and time again. We have been working with the ACOE and the DEC for some time now to develop a plan to reduce flooding in our area. Our small town atmosphere is a driving force for many new businesses, and the assistance from our state agency will help bring about positive change, and continued growth for those who look for a more healthy lifestyle and quality of life," said Rob Eggleton, Supervisor, town of Rockland.

A joint effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DEC, the town of Rockland, the Livingston Manor Flood Control Feasibility Study was originally initiated in 2009. In 2016, the study was re-envisioned to focus solely on flood control, which required additional funding. In October 2017, DEC committed to providing up to $50,000 to finalize the study.

DEC is currently working with the U.S. Army Corps to finalize a contract for the project. The study is anticipated to be completed in 2018. Following completion of the study, the U.S. Army Corps will begin the design and construction phase of the project with federal, State and local funding.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

NYC DEP Statement on the Long-term Agreement for Delaware River Flow Management Program


The New York City Department of Environmental Protection released the following statement from Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush.

“New York City is pleased that the Decree Parties today committed to a long-term agreement that balances the myriad interests connected to the Delaware River. The 10-year program protects public health for millions of Americans by sustaining their supplies of high-quality drinking water. The agreement also expands efforts to enhance flood attenuation and support the outdoor recreation economy of the upper Delaware River through the protection of its natural ecology and wild trout fishery.

“Importantly, the new agreement was built upon untold hours of scientific work and data analyses that aimed to advance the interests of all stakeholders without detriment to any of them.

“That work does not end here. The new agreement requires the Decree Parties to pursue a number of scientific studies related to salinity intrusion in the lower Delaware River, the calculation of water available to be released downstream of New York City’s reservoirs, and other topics related to the natural resources of the basin.

“New York City will approach the work ahead with the same spirit of collaboration that yielded the new flow-management program today.”

More information about the Flexible Flow Management Program will be available on the website of the Office of the Delaware River Master.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Record Number of Americans Support Menhaden Protection

150,000 Public Comments in Support of Menhaden Protection Announced; Most Public Comments Ever Delivered to ASMFC!
 
(New York, NY Nov. 10, 2017) A record number of Americans are urging the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council (ASMFC) to support protection of Atlantic Menhaden in their upcoming decision. Over 150,000 Americans sent public comments in favor of strong Menhaden protections during the recently completed public comment period. The ASMFC will meet November 14th to decide on Amendment 3—a proposal to provide stronger protections for Atlantic Menhaden that takes into consideration the important role the “most important fish in the sea” plays as both a source of food for other species and filterer of water.

“From striped bass anglers and fishing captains to whale watchers and bird enthusiasts, the varying interests across the east coast that support managing menhaden to account for their importance to ocean ecosystems shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Anyone who pays close attention to life in the water has seen first-hand just how important this fish is, and wants to see the species conservatively managed,” said Zach Cockrum, Northeast Regional Representative for the National Wildlife Federation.

The Commission’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board will meet November 13‐14, 2017 to consider approval of Amendment 3 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden and set specifications for the 2018 fishing season.

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia Tyrannus) play a central role in the ecological and economic vitality of the Atlantic coastal ecosystem as an essential food for whales as well as important commercial and game fishes (striped bass, bluefin tuna, bluefish, weakfish, tarpon, sharks), and a host of other marine wildlife. Menhaden play a key role in the regulation of regional water quality by filtering phytoplankton; its food source and a major cause of algae blooms and brown tides.