HARRISBURG, Pa. - As part of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's efforts to highlight its ongoing habitat improvement initiatives, the public is invited to take part in upcoming tours of several State Game Lands between Sept. 22 and Oct. 14. 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 for managing and protecting these lands," said Carl G. Roe, Game 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. These tours afford hunters and trappers and others who appreciate wildlife the opportunity to see how the Game Commission is spending hunting and furtaker license fees to acquire and to manage these lands for wildlife."
In 1919, the Game Commission was granted authority to purchase lands 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 using revenues from hunting and furtaker license sales; State Game Lands timber, coal, oil, gas and mineral operation revenues; the state's share of a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, known as the Pittman-Robertson Program; from Working Together for Wildlife artwork and patch sales; and from the Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management stamp and print sales.
Information on the various tours is as follows:
Mercer/Venango Counties: Saturday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m., State Game Lands 39 and 130. Tour participants will meet at the first SGL parking area on the right side of Reeds Furnace Road, two-tenths of a mile off of State Route 965, just west of the Venango/Mercer county border. This SGL tour will be held rain or shine, and is open to everyone that is interested in learning about SGLs 39 and 130 its wildlife and habitat management. Participants will take part in a 17-mile tour and see the habitat work on these two SGLs; view the Marcellus/Utica Shale gas well development and the steps taken to improve habitat and infrastructure on the SGLs; hear how the agency is using a timber sale to promote aspen regeneration; learn about grassland birds, ruffed grouse and Pennsylvania's diverse wildlife; and learn about woodcock habitat along the Polk Cut-off, WHISL Project. In addition to experiencing these beautiful SGLs on a fall day in its colorful splendor and wildlife, tour participants also will have the opportunity to meet members and learn about the Sandy Creek Watershed, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Tour participants can travel in their own vehicle -- four-wheel drive is not necessary, but vehicles with low ground clearance could scrape bottom --or set up car pools at the meeting site. This tour will have various stops and will involve short walks to points of interest. All tour participants are encouraged to bring a lunch or a snack to enjoy along the way.
Directions to starting point: From Mercer, take Route 62 East toward Jackson Center to the junction of Route 965. Continue East on Route 965 through red blinker light at State Route 173. Continue about five miles to Reeds Furnace Road, then left onto Reeds Furnace Road. From Franklin, take Route 62 West through Polk to junction of Route 965 then about five miles to Reeds Furnace Road and turn right onto Reeds Furnace Road to first SGL parking lot on right.
Potter County: Sunday, Sept. 30, beginning at 1 p.m., State Game Land 64, consisting of nearly 8,100 acres. Tour participants will meet at the E.F. Dean gravel/trucking facility on Route 6, which is 2.5 miles west from the traffic light in Galeton and depart at 1 p.m. for State Game Land 64. The two- to three-hour tour will showcase habitat projects on SGL 64 at five stops, and will be held rain or shine. Participants must travel in own vehicles or car-pool with other tour participants. Four-wheel drive clearance is recommended; the roads that the tour will travel on are not suited for sedans and cars. Tour participants should be able to walk short distances over uneven terrain.
Cambria County: Sunday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 108, consisting of 23,086 acres. This 7.5-mile, self-guided, one-way, driving tour will highlight mountainous terrain and fall foliage on the Allegheny front. Items of interest along the tour route include a rehabilitated strip-mined area, which has been converted to small game habitat. The area also serves as a study area for grassland nesting birds, including the Henslow's sparrow, a grassland species of special concern. Northern harriers and endangered short-eared owls also inhabit the study area. Also highlighted are tree and shrub identification, wildlife habitat food plots and a deer exclosure fence. Each tour participant will be provided a brochure with directions and information about various features along the tour route. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain the various habitat improvement projects on this SGL and to answer questions. A high-ground clearance vehicle is highly recommended to participate in this tour.
Directions: The tour begins at the State Game Land access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality, along State Route 53, in White Township. Watch for the sign. The starting point is just minutes away from the main beach at Prince Gallitzin State Park, where the annual Apple Cider Festival will be taking place on the same day. The tour will conclude on State Route 865 near Blandburg, in Reade Township.
Luzerne/Wyoming Counties: Sunday, Oct. 7, State Game Land 57, which consists of nearly 44,600 acres. Registration to be held from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the headquarters building complex on SGL 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 with high clearance are strongly recommended for this 14-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will begin at the SGL 57 maintenance building and travels Southbrook, Shale Pit, Beech Lake, and Mountain Springs roads back to the building. The tour will pass habitat improvement projects completed by the SGL 57 Food and Cover Corps crew, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management Association and Ducks Unlimited. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions.
Directions: Take Route 487 north at the intersection of Route 118 and proceed 7.5 miles and turn onto a dirt road near SGL sign on right. Travel on dirt road one-tenth of a mile to a "Y" intersection and proceed left three-tenths of a mile to the headquarters complex. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife management programs being carried out on this magnificent tract of public hunting land.
Bedford/Blair counties: Sunday, Oct. 14, from noon to 3 p.m., State Game Land 26, which encompasses 12,062 acres in a four-county area. This popular tour highlights mountainous terrain and fall foliage. The seven-mile, self-guided auto tour begins at the parking area on the northeast side of Route 869, between Pavia and Beaverdale, and concludes near the village of Blue Knob. Youngsters will enjoy the opportunity to locate and identify mounted wildlife specimens placed in their natural habitat along the drive. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities.
Berks/Schuylkill counties: Sunday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 110, which encompasses nearly 10,150 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 counties: Sunday, Oct. 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Land 211, which encompasses more than 44,400 acres in a three-county area. The tour will start at the Ellendale gate in Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, seven miles east of Dauphin. Follow the road along Stony Creek to the gated entrance to the interior of SGL 211, which will be manned by Game Commission personnel. The one-way (easterly), 17-mile trip will be made along an abandoned railroad bed, and will exit on to Goldmine Road in Lebanon County. Additional Game Commission personnel will be on hand at the tour stops to answer questions. For interested parties, an optional guided walking tour of the old Cold Springs Hotel site will be offered.
Facts about the Pennsylvania Game Commission: The Pennsylvania Game Commission is mandated, by state law, to spend a specific amount of money on habitat improvement each year. That minimum is based on an established rate of $4.25 for each resident and nonresident adult general hunting license and $2 for each antlerless deer license. During the 2010-11 license year, the Game Commission sold 818,557 resident and nonresident adult general hunting licenses and 798,568 antlerless deer licenses, for a total minimum of $5,076,003. In reality, the agency spent $6,700,000 on habitat improvement projects, which was $1,623,997 more that the legislatively-mandated minimum.