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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