Nov. 20—WILKES-BARRE — The North Branch Land Trust staff submitted this as hunting season nears:
The heritage of hunting is alive and well in Northeast Pennsylvania, and whether you're a long-time resident or new neighbor, it's easy to hear when the season begins.
North Branch Land Trust wants everyone to feel safe when enjoying Northeast Pennsylvania's outdoors. Although we spend plenty of time outside, we wanted to talk with the experts at the Pennsylvania Game Commission to make sure we are doing our best to be cautious and courteous.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) 'has managed the Commonwealth's wildlife resources for all Pennsylvanians' for more than 100 years, so they know a thing or two about staying safe and enjoying the outdoors this time of year.
Lt. Aaron Morrow, State Game Warden Information and Education Supervisor in the Northeast Region is thrilled to share his experience.
"We manage over 1.5 million acres of State Game Lands in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania is second only to Texas when it comes to the number of licensed hunters, but managing hunting and trapping is not all we do," Lt. Morrow said.
He explained that most people are unaware that the Pennsylvania Game Commission stewards all of PA's wild mammals and birds, not just sporting species like deer and grouse. That's 480 species of birds and mammals.
And while many assume that hunting season is the busiest time for Game Wardens, these officers do not have an off season. No matter the time of year, Game Wardens are in the field enforcing hunting and wildlife laws, assisting with wildlife-human conflicts, and managing State Game Lands.
This time of year, however, there is plenty of animal activity. As wildlife is getting ready for a Pennsylvania Winter, they become more reactive to their environment.
"Black bears are preparing to settle down at den sites in December," Lt. Morrow said. "White-tails are in rut until mid to late December, and they tend to move around to find a mate. Yearlings are dispersing from family units, and they can travel miles. Plus, a lot of people want to be outside enjoying the changing seasons. All of this can lead to more human-wildlife interactions, including vehicle collisions."
Outdoor enthusiasts, both hunters and hikers, should always be aware of whose property they are on and their rules regarding activities and apparel. Areas popular with hunters and hikers may have 'Hunters wear orange and so should you' signage. If on State Game Lands from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, you are required to wear a 250 sq. in. of fluorescent orange color, generally a vest and hat.
Having an orange blaze visible from all angles for persons and pets is a safety minimum, regardless of the time of year.
Lt Morrow said, "During hunting season it is a must, but blaze orange is visible year-round. If you are in a remote area and get lost or injured, being seen can mean being found."
Are there other things we can wear to keep safe? Don't shy away from all the bells and whistles, literally!
While Lt Morrow notes orange is the priority, those who want to feel extra cautious should consider being audible as well as visible.
When outdoors with pets, make sure they are leashed and consider adding a bell to their collar to alert people and wildlife to their presence.
Humans can also consider carrying a whistle to call for help in locations with no phone service.
But the most important aspect of staying safe?
Awareness. For hikers, that means, what sporting activities may be occurring that time of year and giving wildlife and hunters plenty of room.
For hunters, that means knowing your target, what lies beyond and between.
For everyone, that means knowing where you are, where established trails are and who else is out there with you.
Outdoor enthusiasts of any kind should also make their loved ones aware of any plans. Let people know where you're going and when you should be back.
We hope you safely enjoy all that the NEPA outdoors has to offer this time of year!
North Branch Land Trust conserves the natural, working, and scenic landscapes in Northeastern Pennsylvania that sustain us.
Visit nblt.org to learn more about local conservation efforts.
Eagle Watch volunteer training with
the Delaware Highlands Conservancy
Join the Delaware Highlands Conservancy for winter 2024 Eagle Watch volunteer training on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Settlers Inn in Hawley.
Following the in-person training session, volunteers will receive manuals and other materials for the winter season. Following the gathering, volunteers are invited to go on self-guided tours to the Van Scott Nature Reserve and the Eagle Observation Areas.
The Conservancy's winter Eagle Watch program runs through January and February, weekends only. Volunteers cover morning or afternoon shifts at the Eagle Observation Areas located throughout the Upper Delaware River region.
Main monitoring areas are: Mongaup Reservoir and the Delaware River at Minisink Falls and the Zane Grey boat launch at Lackawaxen.
On site, volunteers collect data on wintering eagles and resident pairs. They educate the public in "Eagle Etiquette" and on how to have the best eagle-watching experience. Volunteers are also needed to help staff booths, do workshops, and participate in other eagle-related events.
Those interested in attending are asked to register online at — www.DelawareHighlands.org/events — or call 570-226-3164 ext. 2.
For those not able to attend the training on Dec. 9, but still interested in becoming an Eagle Watch volunteer, contact Rachel Morrow at the Conservancy at — email@example.com.
The Delaware Highlands Conservancy works in partnership with landowners and communities to protect the natural heritage and quality of life of the Upper Delaware River region.
For more information, call 570-226-3164, or 845-583-1010, or visit — www.DelawareHighlands.org.
Pa. DEP is seeking applicants for the 2024
Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence
The Shapiro Administration invites all Pennsylvanians who have recently worked on a successful environmental project to apply for the 2024 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence, the state's top environmental honor.
Any Pennsylvania business, farm, government agency, educational institution, or nonprofit organization that has developed or participated in a project that promotes environmental protection and stewardship in the Commonwealth may apply.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) oversees the award selection process, evaluating projects on eight criteria: commitment to protecting the environment, partnership, environmental education and outreach, economic impact, innovation, climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice. The Governor's Office will then select the awardees.
"We're looking to uplift individuals and entities who have advanced environmental protection, education, and justice in the Commonwealth," said Interim Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley. "These awards highlight forward-thinking organizations that are changing the environmental landscape. I encourage all environmental stewards to apply. Nominating a person or an organization will help showcase the many ways Pennsylvanians are improving and protecting the environment."
Projects must have been completed between Oct. 11, 2022 and Oct. 31, 2023.
Applications are submitted online. DEP will accept applications through Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, at 5 p.m.
Last year, 21 businesses, non-profits, schools, and agencies earned the 2023 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence. Awardees achieved a number of accomplishments, including developing environmental planning tools, creating sustainability programs, fostering environmental education, and restoring streams and natural areas.
$7.4M announced to restore, protect
Chesapeake Bay Watershed Habitats
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced 25 grants totaling $7.4 million for projects that support wildlife habitat, climate resilience, community conservation partnerships, and equitable access to nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
This year's grants will advance the goals of the Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (Chesapeake WILD) Program and leverage more than $12 million in grantee matching funds, for a total conservation impact of $19.4 million.
The awards announced today will ultimately improve recreational access along more than 31 miles of river and trails, restore more than 32 riparian miles of forest habitat, improve passage along nearly 120 river miles for migratory fish species, and protect more than 4,700 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, including 2,000 acres of key wildlife corridors in high-elevation areas that will allow species to shift habitats in response to climate change.
Many of these projects address conservation needs in vulnerable communities.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the U.S. and home to thousands of species of plants and animals.
Nearly 1 million waterfowl winter on and near the bay each year — approximately one-third of the Atlantic Coast's migratory population.
More than 18 million people live and work in the Chesapeake Bay region, many depending on industries tied to the health of the watershed, like outdoor recreation, farming and fishing.
Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle