Two wishes for Pennsylvania outdoors in 2020

With the new year already underway, I suggest the two most important items concerning the outdoor world of Pennsylvania, and how they may be dealt with.

  1. Cleaning the Susquehanna River for the benefit of both the river itself and the Chesapeake Bay.

It’s no secret that Pennsylvania has fallen well short of its proposed commitment to reduce the overall problem of nitrogen contamination and other pollutants. Overall, Pennsylvania is about $300 million dollars short yearly of its funding requirement to help clean the Susquehanna and Chesapeake by the year 2025.

The funding requirement — if not met — falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which may hold Pennsylvania responsible for this shortfall. To this point in time, EPA has not acted to force Pennsylvania to meet its obligations, and the current stance on clean air and water under present federal leadership offers little hope this posture will change.

To any readers who pass over these numbers without concern, consider the consequence of not cleaning the river and bay.

I’ve fished both the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake. Caught magnificent smallmouths on the river, plus rockfish, flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and big croaker in the bay. Reflect on the crab and oyster populations in the bay — plus the fish — we stand to lose in both water bodies if pollution problems are not resolved.

Once past the recovery time period, these celebrated and wonderful waters are gone for good. My hope for 2020 is that Pennsylvania legislators find the money to help pay this state’s fair share in helping recovery, because clean water is a must for both humans and the other creatures.

  1. Chronic wasting disease in both Pennsylvania and North America.

Chronic Wasting Disease is not new to America. In 1967 CWD was first identified in a mule deer at a government research facility in northern Colorado. Since that point it is now found in 26 U.S. states — including Pennsylvania — and three Canadian provinces. It has also been found in moose in Norway, Finland and Sweden.

The foremost fact is that CWD is spreading. Just as important is the truth that this sickness that can affect all members of the cervid family, and is always deadly. Once the animal has the disease, death is a certainty.

Here in Pennsylvania, the Game Commission has implemented boundaries and special rules and regulations in specific areas attempting to contain the disease in spots where it has been established. Among other items to help deal with CWD are containers for infected deer parts, and testing options for harvested deer. Additional attempts to lessen the spread of CWD, such as herd reduction in disease areas, has met resistance from landowner and some hunters.

It is surely a large and difficult task. It will be extremely expensive, and requires the help of all the public and the government, both hunting and non-hunting.

I wish and hope that 2020 sees both state and federal money — and lots of it — to help the fight against CWD. The best science will be needed.

Once again, thinking in the terms of outdoor recreation, consider a world without all deer species, elk, moose, caribou and reindeer.

Categories: CWD, Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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