Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Agencies depend on partners for projects

Pittsburgh ’Äî Anglers were treated to double the fun on Montour
Run this spring when the stocked portion of the Ohio River
tributary was increased from one to two miles.

’ÄúIt’Äôs one of the best metro fisheries in the state,’Äù said
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission biologist Rick Lorson, who
plans to perform angler counts on the run next spring. ’ÄúWe’Äôre
very pleased with how well it has produced.’Äù

Though added to the state trout-stocking program in 2003, Lorson
said Montour Run never would have been a candidate if the Forest
Grove Sportsmen’Äôs Association and the Montour Run Watershed
Association hadn’Äôt tackled mine drainage, airport runoff and
dumpster-loads of trash for the past 15 years.

’ÄúWe were once told this stream would never hold fish, and we
proved everyone wrong,’Äù said Forest Grove board member Mike
Karkalla. His group stocked trout before the state would take a
gamble.

’ÄúWe used their original stocking as part of our fish survival
survey before deciding to stock,’Äù Lorson said. ’ÄúMany partners
have made this a viable fishery.’Äù

Private sector cooperators, as state game and fisheries managers
often call them, are proliferating across Pennsylvania. With no tax
dollars coming in and license sales dwindling, state wildlife
managers are looking to sportsmen, conservationists ’Äì even
corporations ’Äì to shoulder more of the burden of caring for fish
and game habitat.

Some want to ensure the health of their favorite fields and
streams, while others are also looking to bolster their image.

Duquesne Light donated light poles for restoration of the launch
facility on the Allegheny River in Sharpsburg that also included
contributions from Job Corps and other partners. Recently, Wild
Waterways Conservation, nonprofit steward of the Connoquennessing
and Slippery Rock watersheds, donated a 10-acre tract of land
adjacent to Moraine State Park to enhance green space and aid
groundwater recharge.

The Somerset-Cambria Water Authority is enabling the Jennerstown
Rod and Gun Club to cultivate small game habitat around Quemahoning
Reservoir.

’ÄúWe’Äôve long partnered with sportsmen’Äôs clubs in terms of
hunter-trapper education and getting folks into hunting, but in
terms of land acquisition and habitat improvement, that’Äôs a more
recent phenomenon,’Äù said Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman
Jerry Feaser.

’ÄúIt’Äôs growing so fast I couldn’Äôt even give you an
exhaustive list because, for every national organization out there,
there are active local chapters, plus rod and gun clubs and other
groups.’Äù

The Game Commission has tripled its habitat-management staff to
work with private sector partners. ’ÄúFor every dollar we put up,
they’Äôre putting up money as well. They provide physical labor,’Äù
he said. ’ÄúAnd they can purchase things expeditiously that would
be a more timely process for us.’Äù

Mechanical deer decoys used to nab poachers often are donated by
organized sportsmen, as are man hours and equipment needed to
maintain habitat.

Consol Energy is working on bobwhite quail propagation on 1,700
acres in Greene County. ’ÄúWe’Äôve done half a dozen wetland
restorations and other projects with them,’Äù said Doug Dunkerley,
Game Commission land-management officer. ’ÄúThey’Äôve given us
tractors, quads, and parcels of land.

’ÄúIt helps us tremendously, and it helps their image and stock
prices.’Äù

The Fish & Boat Commission also is reporting an explosion in
public-private ventures. Two years ago, the agency created a
habitat bureau specifically aimed at outreach.

’ÄúWe’Äôre too small to work without cooperators,’Äù said agency
biologist Dave Kristine, who currently manages 100 dam-removal
projects across the state, mostly with individual landowners.
’ÄúPart of it is that, in recent years, the public’Äôs knowledge of
ecosystems has kicked in. That, and Growing Greener funding is
available.’Äù

Although millions of Growing Greener dollars are distributed for
hundreds of land and waterway improvements statewide, many more
needs depend on revenues from stagnating fish and game license
sales. That can hamper the most dynamic partnerships.

Pheasants Forever and California University of Pennsylvania are
prepared to take their pheasant propagation program at Pike Run
statewide, but it may hinge on whether the Game Commission gets a
license fee increase.

’ÄúIt isn’Äôt enough for us just to get more birds from South
Dakota,’Äù said Rich Kovacic, president of the Tri-County chapter
of Pheasants Forever. ’ÄúWe need the Game Commission to put money
into habitat. We finally got them to provide a habitat plan; now we
need the funding.’Äù

Partnerships also can change with organizations’Äô priorities.
Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited decided recently to limit its
involvement in the Fish & Boat Commission’Äôs cooperative
hatchery program, which provides groups with trout to raise in net
pens and other types of nurseries.

’ÄúWe’Äôll grandfather in the six co-ops we already maintain,
but we’Äôre not going to put any more money into new fish-culture
operations,’Äù said Ken Undercoffer, Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited
president. ’ÄúWe’Äôre a conservation group. Hatching trout is a
mission we no longer want to be on.’Äù

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