September 16, 2008

Wildlife Habitat

By Afield, Currents

The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which loves to exhibit its state game lands and the wildlife habitat work being accomplished on those lands, is offering free tours of some of its game lands. One of the tours was Saturday near Mount Gretna. In recent years, PGC has reached many goals for habitat improvement on state game lands and leased areas.

Statewide, the PGC has planted 3,597 acres of grain and 2,095 acres of grasses and legumes for wildlife. About 730 acres were planted with, or converted to, warm-season grasses. About 2,307 acres of wildlife food plots were limed and 4,747 acres fertilized to improve wildlife food production; 17,200 acres were mowed to maintain high-quality grasses and legumes, and 1,220 acres of field and administrative road borders were cut to provide nesting and escape cover.

Wetland restoration work was completed on three state game lands sites and several locations across the state by PGC and various habitat partners.

A total of 46,963 fruit trees were pruned to improve production, and 2,900 new nest boxes and 1,800 waterfowl nest structures were erected.

The Pennsylvania Conservation Corps provided $111,500 in funding and 10 work crews to assist with habitat projects.

The PGC's Howard Nursery in Centre County produced and distributed 1,688,300 tree and shrub seedlings for wildlife food and cover plantings. Additionally, 364,650 of the seedlings distributed were sold for $71,523. The nursery propagated 37 species of important food and cover plants, including 773,850 deciduous trees and shrubs and 914,450 evergreens.

The nursery's wood shop produced and shipped 5,305 bluebird/ chickadee/wren boxes; 8,545 bluebird box kits; 645 wood duck boxes and kits; 379 squirrel, kestrel, barn owl and bat boxes and about 4,930 signs, backboards and bulletin boards for use on game lands and cooperative-access properties.

An additional 171 nonstandard nesting devices, such as mallard and turkey rocket boxes also were produced. New in 2008, a wide variety of wood products were sold to the public on the PGC's Web site.

Optimum habitat diversity is an important goal of PGC's timber management program. There were 6,055 acres offered for bidding for commercial timber harvest the past fiscal year. There were 1,605 acres treated with herbicide to remove ferns, striped maple, spicebush and low-quality beech brush hampering the establishment of more beneficial tree species.

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