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SEPTEMBER  17, 2003

HARRISBURG - As part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's efforts to highlight its ongoing habitat improvement initiatives, the public is invited to take part in tours of eight State Game Lands in October. All tours are free.

"State Game Land tours provide the opportunity for those who enjoy nature to come out and talk with our employees - the people who are directly responsible managing and protecting these lands," said Vern Ross, Commission executive director. "With autumn nearly here, these tours will provide a chance to see some of the best scenery the Commonwealth has to offer.

"But, more importantly, these tours afford hunters and trappers the opportunity to see how the Game Commission is spending their license fees to acquire and manage these lands."

During fiscal year 2001-2002, the Game Commission spent $7,144,210 on habitat improvement, which exceeds the agency's mandated habitat spending level by $1,427,572. Other projects were conducted with the assistance of hundreds of sportsmen's clubs and conservation organizations.

During 2001-2002, the Game Commission's Land Managers, Foresters and Food and Cover Corps crews conducted the following projects to improve wildlife habitats: planted 2,359 acres of grain and 1,640 acres of grasses and legumes; planted or converted 548 acres of State Game Lands to warm-season grasses; limed and fertilized 6,219 acres of food plots; mowed 14,107 acres to maintain high-quality grasses and legumes; cut 2,138 acres of field borders to provide nesting and escape cover; completed wetland restoration work on 41 sites; pruned 21,200 trees to improve fruit and seed production; erected 884 new nest boxes and 174 waterfowl nest structures; treated 5,792 acres of State Game Lands for habitat improvement through commercial timbering operations; seeded 60 miles of haul roads and 12 miles of new roads to serve as linear food plots; treated 1,331 acres with herbicide to remove ferns and low-quality brush hampering the establishment of more beneficial food and cover species; and cleared 719 acres so the areas could revert to low groundcover.

Additionally, the Game Commission's Howard Nursery grew and distributed 1.6 million evergreen and deciduous tree seedlings (25 species) for planting on State Game Lands and lands open to public hunting. Howard Nursery also provided 3,604 bluebird boxes; 9,529 bluebird box kits; 560 wood duck boxes; and hundreds of squirrel, kestrel, barn owl and bat boxes to Land Managers for placement on State Game Lands.

In 1919, the Game Commission was granted authority to purchase lands to be set aside for the protection, propagation and management of game and wildlife, and to provide areas for public hunting and trapping. Since that time, the Game Commission has acquired more than 1.4 million acres in 65 of the state's 67 counties (Philadelphia and Delaware counties being the exceptions).

With few exceptions, State Game Lands were purchased by using revenues from the sale of hunting and furtaker licenses; from revenues generated by timber, coal, oil, gas and mineral operations on State Game Lands; from a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition known as the Pittman-Robertson Program; from the sale of Working Together for Wildlife artwork and patches; and from the sale of the Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management stamp and prints.

Information on the various tours by region is as follows:

Dauphin County: Sunday, Oct. 5, from noon to 3 p.m., State Game Land 290 (Haldeman Island). This is a three-mile, self-guided walking tour over flat terrain on a Susquehanna River island. Highlights include waterfowl management and bald eagles. Game Commission personnel will be present at specific stations to explain management techniques and programs. The tour begins at the parking area off Routes 11-15 (across from the Ranch House Restaurant), just north of the Route 322 interchange about 2.5 miles south of New Buffalo.

Bedford/Blair counties: Sunday, Oct. 19, from noon to 4 p.m., State Game Land 26. This is a seven-mile, self-guided one-way driving tour that features a mountainous State Game Land and beautiful foliage. The tour begins at the parking area on the northeast side of Route 869, between Pavia and Beaverdale, and concludes near the town of Blue Knob. Game Commission personnel will place mounted wildlife specimens along the route to give youngsters an opportunity to locate and identify some of Pennsylvania's native wildlife in a natural setting.

Berks/Schuylkill counties: Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 110, which encompasses more than 10,000 acres of historical, scenic and recreational property in a two-county area. The nine-mile trip will begin at the agency's parking lot on Mountain Road, midway between the Shartlesville Exit of Interstate 78 and Route 61; and will exit onto Route 183, north of Strausstown. Game Commission Officers will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities.

Dauphin/Lebanon/Schuylkill counties: Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 211, which encompasses more than 44,000 acres in a three-county area. The tour will start at the Ellendale gate in Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, just northeast of Dauphin Borough. The 19-mile trip will be made along an abandoned railroad bed, and will end at Goldmine Road, just southwest of Tower City, Schuylkill County. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat improvement projects.

Luzerne/Wyoming counties: Sunday, Oct. 5, State Game Land 57. Registration will be held from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the headquarters building complex on State Game Land 57, Ricketts Station, Forkston Township, Wyoming County. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat improvement projects. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended for this three-hour, 30-mile, self-guided driving tour. The Game Commission may refuse entry to vehicles that could be damaged due to the terrain. All vehicles must exit the route by 3 p.m. Each vehicle will receive a map and brief explanation of wildlife management programs being carried out on this parcel. More than 120 species of trees are found in Pennsylvania, many of which will make this State Game Land a colorful autumn showplace. Directions: At the intersection of Routes 487 and 118, take Route 487 north for 7.5 miles and turn onto a dirt road near State Game Land sign on right. Travel on a dirt road one-tenth of a mile to a "Y" intersection and go left for three-tenths of a mile to the headquarters complex.

Bradford County: Sunday, Oct. 5, from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. This will be a 26-mile self-guided driving tour through State Game Lands 12 and 36. The route will start at the parking lot on top of Wheelerville Mountain along Route 154 just south of Canton, Bradford County. Tour participants will see food plots that the Game Commission created in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation; several timber sale operations in various stages; border cuttings; two deer exclosure project sites; and a strip-mine reclamation site that was completed in 1983. Additionally, the tour will include stops by the remains of towns and farm sites; a former refuge area; Barclay Cemetery; and evergreen plantings done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Roads are passable for most vehicles.

Butler County: Sunday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m., State Game Land 95. The tour will start and stop at the Crew Headquarters building on State Route 308. If coming from the north, the building is on the left one-half mile south of Annandale Station (Branchton Rd.). If coming from the south, the building is on the right one mile north of Moniteau High School. Come and see the habitat work being done on State Game Land 95, get ideas to improve wildlife habitat on your own property and discuss habitat techniques with Game Commission Land Managers. Tour participants will see warm-season grasses; sharecrop fields; water level and wetland management; bald eagle nest; winter thermal cover; grouse and turkey bugging strips; bat, bluebird, and duck nesting boxes; wetland restoration areas; and other habitat improvement work. As part of the tour, participants will ride in their own vehicle; four-wheel drive is not necessary, but vehicles with low ground clearance could scrape bottom. At the end of the tour, a picnic supper will be provided by the Butler County Chapter of Waterfowl USA.

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