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Independent Review Hails Management of Pennsylvania’s State Forests

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has released the results of an independent review team’s annual study of state forestlands, affirming the state’s efforts to conserve resources through sound management.

“The auditors were very pleased with our forest management and our staff’s dedication, and I extend thanks to each of the districts involved in this year’s audit for another job well done,” DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said. “This continued certification is an affirmation of the pride we take in managing our state forest system for many values and uses, while maintaining its long-term health and viability.”

“Forest management faces many threats and challenges, including fragmentation and disturbance, invasive plants, destructive exotic insects and insufficient regeneration,” Allan said. “The certification process shows we are doing everything we can to improve our management plans and practices. More importantly, it helps us identify areas we can improve to ensure our forests are well managed and in line with stakeholder expectations.”

For the 15th consecutive year, when a team of scientists first began reviewing management of Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of state forestlands, researchers lauded Pennsylvania’s commitment to its forests, and exemplary practices and innovation in managing forest resources.

The independent, third-party review was conducted in late August 2012 by Rainforest Alliance, recognized as the world’s leading forest management certifier. Certification assures consumers that wood products from the state’s public forests come from a sustainable, well-managed system, which helps Pennsylvania to compete in the growing niche consumer market for “green” label wood products.

The annual assessment is designed to evaluate the ecological, economic and social performance of DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry according to guidelines established by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC® is an independent organization supporting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. It was formed in 1993 by environmental, social and forest-products industry representatives to establish guidelines for sustainable forest-management practices.

A Rainforest Alliance project team consisting of a forestry socio-economic assessor and a wildlife ecologist toured Gallitzen, Clear Creek and Sproul state forest districts. They met with DCNR officials and stakeholders, scoring woodlands on timber-resource sustainability, forest-ecosystem maintenance, financial and socioeconomic considerations and other categories. Auditors sought stakeholder input on deer impact in the forest; implementation of the Deer Management Assistance Program; forest regeneration; and remediation of trails following a motorcycle enduro race in Sproul State Forest.

Specifically, Rainforest Alliance applauded the bureau for:
  • Habitat enhancement in a reclaimed surface coal mine, now home to threatened and endangered bird species, and designated as a High Conservation Value Forest in Gallitzin State Forest;
  • Cooperation, training, co-coordination and research efforts with the USDA Forest Service in addressing potential regeneration shortfalls in Clear Creek State Forest;
  • Reduced impact of the July 2012 motorcycle enduro race in Sproul State Forest; trail remediation after the event; and efforts to balance stakeholder needs and sound forest management in overseeing an event that drew some 250 participants.
“In each of these districts auditors also looked at the overall condition of our forests, roads, trails and infrastructure,” Allan said. “Every employee should feel proud of the work they have done to help us maintain such a high standard.”

The evaluation team and Rainforest Alliance work with the bureau to resolve any issues found during audits. Streamlining of special activity guidelines on motorized trails were requested in the 2012 study, and suggestions were made to improve stakeholder input and regeneration surveys after timber harvests.

“Just as recycled products have become common in the marketplace, many environmentally conscious timber consumers look for ‘green’ wood grown in certified forests,” Allan said. “Continuing certification is especially good news when you consider our quality hardwoods help support the state’s $7 billion forest products industry that employs more than 60,000 people.”

Copies of the Rainforest Alliance 2012 state forest evaluation and the State Forest Resource Management Plan can be found at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforestmanagement/index.htm.

This article was produced by the Gant Daily.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 25, 2013

Spreading the Word About Birds on Game Commission Websites

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today unveiled a redesigned and expanded birding and bird conservation section on its website to help it better communicate the importance of wild birds to the millions who visit the website annually.

“We have always recognized that there is tremendous interest in birding and bird conservation among Pennsylvanians, but it hasn’t been easy to meet that demand with content on our website, because of our limited number of wildlife diversity biologists are incredibly busy,” explained Carl G. Roe, agency executive director. “These upgrades have been in development for the better part of two years, and with them now in place, our wild bird content overnight has become an indispensible resource for anyone from students to birders to backyard bird feeders.”

The new section offers advice on where to go statewide to see birds, when the best times of day are to go and what you can expect to see. Learn about migratory behavior. Figure out what seeds to put in your feeders to attract the wild birds you really want to see. Get help in making your property more bird friendly. Get background on how you can take part in important projects conducted annually to help biologists keep tabs on bird numbers.

“There’s always a need for more participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Pennsylvania Annual Migratory Count and even the Christmas Bird Count” explained Doug Gross, supervisor of the agency Endangered and Nongame Birds Section. “Visit these pages and learn firsthand how you can get involved, work with other birders and make a difference in bird conservation. We could really use your help!”

Pennsylvania is truly a keystone state when it comes to wild birds because the Appalachian Mountains have been part of a continental migratory highway for birds since the days of the passenger pigeon. There are 285 species of wild birds that are regular denizens of the state; another 129 species are less frequent visitors. It’s that diversity of birdlife that makes Pennsylvania so special to birders.

“We’ve taken substantial steps on these pages to acquaint more Pennsylvanians with the state’s wild birds and the agency’s role in bird conservation, both within the Commonwealth’s borders and internationally,” said Dan Brauning, supervisor of the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Division. “This content will help more people see the value of wild birds, and get them closer to birds. It also offers ways to get involved in bird conservation and to make your property safer and more attractive to birds. Please visit. You’ll see a side of Pennsylvania that surely will charm you and likely hook you on wild birds for life!”

To access the new Birding and Bird Conservation Section of the agency website – www.pgc.state.pa.us – place your cursor over “Wildlife” in the top navigation, and select “Birding/Bird Conservation in the dropdown menu. The new section can be accessed from the Wildlife Page.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 23, 2013

Applications now being accepted for wildlife habitat improvement program

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Wildlife Initiative. Land users may apply for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at any time. However, the second application evaluation cutoff date for 2013 has been set at April 19.

This program provides land users an opportunity to improve wildlife habitat by providing financial incentives for installing eligible practices on land they own or control.

In Kentucky, the primary focus of the program is to improve early successional and forestland habitats for declining species and other wildlife. Restoring remnant prairies, planting native grasses, shrubs and trees are some of the eligible practices for the program. Other eligible practices include bush honeysuckle removal, creating patch clear cuts in forestland and creating shallow water areas.

Excluding livestock from sensitive streams and woodlands is also an important focus under Kentucky's 2013 EQIP Wildlife Initiative. Clover plots with certain limitations are eligible in 2013, but must be completed along with other practices such as native warm season grasses, tree or shrub plantings, edge feathering or patch clear cuts.

Program applications are evaluated and ranked to determine which provide the most beneficial habitats. For more information about application requirements, visit your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. Interested land users may also go online to http://fw.ky.gov/kfwis/viewable/privatelands_biologists.pdf or call the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at 1-800-858-1549 to learn the name and telephone number of the private lands biologist serving the area.

Announcement produced by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 23, 2013

Cerulean Warbler to Benefit from Acquisition of Key Colombian Habitat

Cerulean Warbler by Bill Hubick

The Cerulean Warbler, a bird whose population has declined by about 70 percent in the last 40 years, and 25 other neotropical migrating birds are the key beneficiaries of a successful two-year-effort by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Fundación ProAves to purchase and protect key wintering habitat for the birds in Colombia, South America.

ABC is a leading U.S. bird conservation organization while Fundación ProAves is a leading bird conservation group in Colombia and an ABC International Partner.

The conservation effort resulted in the acquisition of nine new properties. Those new properties now make up the western flank of the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve that was established in 2007 by the same partner groups and now totals about 4,470 acres. The purchased area is located in north central Colombia, approximately 150 miles north of Bogota in an area of lush tropical vegetation. The newly acquired land is part of an imposing, mountainous outcropping called Cerro de la Paz, along the Magdalena River Valley west of the Andes Mountains, an area that has been heavily deforested due to agricultural and urban expansion.

“As migratory birds head south through the degraded river valley, the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve is a forested haven. We are thrilled to expand available habitat for these weary avian travelers,” said David Younkman, Vice President for Conservation at ABC.

"Cerro de la Paz and the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve is one of the best migrant hotspots in Colombia based on our surveys,” said Alonso Quevedo, Executive Director of ProAves. “It is fantastic that our conservation efforts to protect endangered resident species, such as the Helmeted Curassow, can also ensure vital winter habitat for dozens of migratory species.”

The Cerulean Warbler was formerly one of the most abundant breeding warblers in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys and elsewhere in the U.S., but is now one of the country’s most imperiled migrant songbirds.

Overall, Cerulean Warbler numbers have plummeted by almost 70% since 1966. This elusive bird winters in the Andes and intermountain valleys, breeds from the Great Lakes region to Georgia, and west from Wisconsin to Louisiana, with particular concentrations in the Appalachians and Central Hardwoods region. Both its breeding and wintering habitat are being lost.

In addition to providing habitat for the Cerulean Warbler, these properties represent a crucial area of wintering habitat for numerous other wintering migrants such as Tennessee, Black-and-white, Mourning, Canada, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Critically Endangered Blue-billed Curassow and Endangered Helmeted Curassow are also reported from this area in recent years, although confirmation is pending.

The Pauxi Pauxi Reserve also provides another strategic function – it anchors the northern end of the Cerulean Warbler Corridor in Colombia. This area is seeing increased agricultural expansion and ProAves is assisting local farmers in reducing deforestation by promoting shade coffee and cacao, both which benefit migratory birds. ProAves owns and operates small coffee and cacao farms that demonstrate to neighboring farmers ways to enhance wildlife conservation and maximize profits.

Current conservation efforts include reforesting habitat by building a tree nursery. Local residents have been hired to help find seeds, maintain saplings, and will begin planting by mid-2013. To protect the area from logging and unauthorized farming, a guard has been hired, and an existing structure is being renovated to serve as a guardhouse. Two small cacao farms on the property will provide ongoing income to sustain management efforts. Camera traps are being installed to confirm the presence of Helmeted, and possibly Blue-billed, Curassow among other important wildlife. ProAves and American Bird Conservancy have been able to undertake this work, including the new land purchases, with the generous support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Neotropical Migratory Conservation Act program, Southern Wings, the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Amos Butler Audubon, the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, Jeff and Connie Woodman, David and Patricia Davidson, Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, and many other supporters of Colombian bird conservation.

This region faces other threats as well: an enormous hydroelectric dam on the Sogamoso River is underway which will flood a large tract of forest, and the developer is buying land and relocating families upslope.  This will bring increased pressure on the reserve’s buffer zone and drive wildlife into the refuge, making the protected habitat even more important.

This article was produced by the American Bird Conservancy
Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 23, 2013

DEC Funding Available for Grassland Protection Program

The deadline for accepting applications for the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) has been extended by two weeks, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. The LIP was created as a partnership between DEC and private landowners to help address the loss of grasslands and associated at-risk wildlife species.

The original open application period coincided with the holiday season and recent snowstorms across the state, therefore the new February 1, 2013 deadline will allow more landowners an opportunity to apply.

Grasslands provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife and are especially significant for birds, including the endangered short-eared owl, the threatened Henslow's sparrow and the threatened upland sandpiper. Eligible private landowners interested in offsetting the decline in grassland bird habitat and populations will be able to apply for technical advice and financial incentives.

To be eligible to apply, an applicant must own at least 25 acres of contiguous grassland located within one of the grassland focus areas across the state. They include portions of the following counties: Allegany, Cayuga, Chemung, Clinton, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Otsego, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Suffolk, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Warren, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates. Visit DEC's website for a map of New York's grasslands focus areas.

The vast majority of grasslands are privately owned. Under LIP, enrolled landowners that engage in stewardship activities that are beneficial for breeding grassland birds are compensated for their efforts. The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through State Wildlife Grants available on DEC's website. This grant program was created and is funded by Congress to help rare and declining species before they require listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

To learn more about the program and obtain an application form, visit the Protecting Grassland Birds on Private Lands page available on DEC's website. Applications must be post-marked by February 1, 2013.

This article was published by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 15, 2013

AMJV Launches Facebook Page

The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) has finally joined social media with the launching of its own Facebook page.  Daily announcements and updates regarding the partnership, pictures of priority bird species, their habitats, and field work, and news from partners around the Appalachians will be posted daily to the page.

Currently on the Facebook site is a photo album of the AMJV highest priority bird species, a post on our international collaboration with conservation organizations in Chiapas, Mexico, and a NASA satellite image of the Appalachians from space.

View the page, drop us a line, share stories, and like us.

Posted by Matt Cimitile: January 15, 2013

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