Hunting and Fishing News: New PA State Game Lands, Board Seeks Public Opinion on Grouse and Quail Plans
BOARD APPROVES ADDITIONS TO STATE GAME LANDS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved agreements with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) to purchase 195 acres of land to add to State Game Land 294 in Mercer County, and 81.5 acres of land to enhance State Game Land 314 in Erie County.
In Mercer County, the 195 acres of land in Cool Spring Township adjoins SGL 294, and are subject to an existing reservation of oil, gas and mineral rights, excluding peat. The option price is $90,000, with the Game Fund obligation limited to $62,487.89 and the remaining $27,512.11 coming from a donation from the Estate of Margaret Metcalfe.
The property is mostly wetlands with about 130 acres in emergent, scrub-shrub and forested wetlands. The upland portion of the property is 60 acres of woodland comprised of oak, maple, cherry and ash. The remaining five acres are reverting farmland.
Otter Creek flows through the property, as well as an unnamed tributary to Otter Creek. A Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory review indicates the presence of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, a state-listed endangered species within the vicinity of this property.
Acquiring this property will fill in gaps between two separate tracts of SGL 294. This contract is contingent upon the WPC being able to secure an option with the owners of the property and approval by the WPC Board of Directors. If the WPC is unable to secure an option on this property, a cooperative agreement between the Game Commission and the WPC will allow the $90,000 to be used to acquire other lands acceptable to the Game Commission.
In Erie County, the 81.5 acres in Springfield Township are adjacent to SGL 314, and will be paid for through a partnership with the WPC. The Game Commission’s cost-share amount for the purchase of the land is $400 per acre, and related survey costs.
The acquisition is subject to the WPC purchasing the property, which is mainly forested with sugar maple, red maple, red ash, American beech, white pine and black cherry, with small pockets of open wetlands and old fields reverting back to early succession. Raccoon Creek flows through the southern portion of the property, and public access is from Old Lake Road.
AME COMMISSION SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON RUFFED GROUSE PLAN
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on a draft ruffed grouse management plan, which can be reviewed on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on the “Draft Grouse Management Plan” icon under the large photo in the center of the homepage.
Public comments on the agency’s ruffed grouse management plan will be accepted until Sept. 1, via the website or by mail to: Ruffed Grouse Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
The overall goal of the ruffed grouse management plan, drafted by staff of the agency’s Game Bird Section, is to increase grouse populations for hunting and viewing by improving the condition and distribution of young forest habitats in Pennsylvania, and to support the implementation of the national Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan.
To support this goal, the plan identifies supporting objectives and strategies for guiding management decisions over a 10-year horizon, 2011-2020. These are grouped under population, habitat, and human dimensions categories.
Forest inventory data were used to ascertain ruffed grouse population deficits between 1980 and 2007. Pennsylvania has lost over 29,000 breeding male grouse in that time. Because grouse population densities are strongly dependent on the proportion of young forests on the landscape, the plan documents the overall annual acreage treatments required to restore grouse populations to near 1980 levels by 2025 – the objective of the national Ruffed Grouse Conservation Plan. Within the time horizon of the PA plan, the population objective is to increase grouse numbers to 215,000 males by 2020. A more rigorous evaluation of state-level harvest management is also recommended.
To support the desired population increase, the Pennsylvania plan includes a habitat objective of having about 2.75 million acres of early-successional habitat by spring of 2020. To achieve this objective, this plan calls for increasing the proportion of Pennsylvania’s forest comprised of young age classes from 11.6 percent to 17.3 percent. To provide maximum benefit to grouse, stepping down this landscape-level increase in young forest to the local level will require both the active pursuit of proven techniques, as well as testing the efficacy of new management strategies. The overarching goal of these activities is to improve the availability of young forest habitats across the state’s landscape.
In addition to population and habitat objectives, the plan includes a human dimensions objective which involves conducting surveys and outreach to assess and increase the knowledge and satisfaction of hunters, habitat managers, and other stakeholders regarding the ruffed grouse resource and its management.
The plan contains information on grouse biology, habitat needs, populations, and recreation, and can be used as a reference for other planning purposes, such as development or implementation of comprehensive State Game Lands plans, development of private lands plans, planning activities on other public lands. Achieving the ambitious objectives for ruffed grouse populations, habitats, and the human dimensions of grouse management will require coordinated planning, research, and management efforts among state and federal agencies, large-scale landowners, and other stakeholders such as non-governmental conservation organizations and sporting groups.
The ruffed grouse is North America’s most widely distributed resident game bird. It is the most popular small game bird in Pennsylvania, as well as the official state bird. Each year, slightly more than 100,000 hunters harvest anywhere from 75,000-100,000 ruffed grouse, and grouse hunting results in the direct spending of about $79 million. Grouse are of significant social and economic value as a game bird in Pennsylvania.
Ruffed grouse populations have declined since 1980. Numbers of hunters and their harvests also have fallen. Although grouse can be present in most forested areas, they are abundant only where young forest habitats (5-15 years old) are common. In Pennsylvania, seedling/sapling stage forest cover, referred to as “young forests” (stands up to 20 years old) or “early-successional habitat,” has gone from 19.6 percent of total forest acres in 1980 to around 11.6 percent today.
For more information about the ruffed grouse, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and put your cursor on “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting” in the drop-down menu list and then click on “Ruffed Grouse” in the “Small Game” listing.
GAME COMMISSION SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON BOBWHITE QUAIL PLAN
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public input on a draft northern bobwhite quail management plan, which can be reviewed on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on the “Draft Quail Management Plan” icon under the large photo in the center of the homepage.
Public comments on the agency’s quail management plan will be accepted until Sept. 1, via the website or by mail to: Quail Management Plan, Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
The mission of the bobwhite quail management plan is to maintain and restore wild breeding populations of Northern Bobwhite Quail in suitable habitats.
The plan identifies supporting goals, objectives and strategies for guiding restoration and management decisions over a 10-year horizon, 2011-2020. This plan provides a comprehensive look at the bobwhite quail in Pennsylvania. Information on taxonomy, biology, habitat relationships, population and habitat trends, propagation, hunting, restoration and partnerships are discussed in detail. The most important part of this plan outlines the management goals, objectives and strategies and a proposed implementation schedule.
There are six strategic goals identified in the plan:
- Determine the current distribution, population status and trends of bobwhite quail in the state, and protect any residual wild populations;
- Determine the amount and type of habitat found where bobwhites exist in the state and call for maintaining and enhancing the quality and quantity of quail habitat within Bobwhite Quail Focus Areas (BQFAs), which will be similar to the strategy used for Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas outlined in the Pheasant Management Plan;
- Create partnerships to achieve habitat targets in BQFAs, focusing on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, landowner cooperators and other partners;
- Assess baseline bobwhite quail populations on BQFAs, develop and implement protocols for establishing wild populations on BQFAs through the trap-and-transfer of wild quail, and then monitor the populations to determine whether they are self-sustaining;
- Assess public knowledge and attitudes about bobwhites and their recovery and inform the public about recovery activities; and
- Lay the groundwork to eventually increase bobwhite quail populations and distribution to all identified suitable habitat.
The northern bobwhite quail is one of the most popular game birds in North America. Its native range at one time included most of the eastern United States north to southern Maine, southern New York, southern Ontario, central Wisconsin and south central Minnesota, west to very southeastern Wyoming, eastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, and eastern Mexico south to Chiapas. Since the mid 1960s, the bobwhite’s range and populations have declined dramatically. Northern bobwhites were relatively common across southern Pennsylvania farmland and brush lands until about 1945. Populations declined rapidly between 1945-55, but made a recovery in the early 1960s. Since 1966, the range and populations of bobwhites have declined to the point that most counties in the commonwealth no longer have bobwhites as a breeding species. It currently is listed as a species of special concern in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s State Wildlife Action Plan
For more information about the northern bobwhite quail, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and put your cursor on “Wildlife” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Wildlife Notes” and then click on “Bobwhite Quail” in the alphabetical listings.