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DCNR Reports Funding 20,500 Acres of Permanent Land Conservation
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Secretary DiBerardinis

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis reported to the Senate Appropriations Committee this week that his agency provided funding to permanently preserve over 20,500 acres of land over the last year.

“Our grants to local communities and conservation non-profits helped them leverage their own dollars to protect important watershed lands with conservation easements and to acquire a total of 14,300 acres of open space,” said Secretary DiBerardinis. “DCNR also acquired close to 6,200 acres that enhance, connect and protect State Park and State Forest land.”

Secretary DiBerardinis also said later this year his agency would be launching a new communication and visitor-based initiative to more actively engage Pennsylvanians in conservation.

He noted visitors to Pennsylvania’s State Parks and Forests have held steady at 35 million per year, while visits to national parks and parks in other states have gone down in the face of other competiting sources of entertainment.

In response to questioning by Senate Appropriations Committee members, several DCNR issues were raised—

Oil & Gas Drilling: Secretary DiBerardinis said his agency has received hundreds of requests to drill in State Forests for oil and gas and would be reviewing those requests over the next six to nine months with decisions expected by the end of the year. Sen. Mary Jo White (R-Venango) noted at a time when Gov. Rendell was promoting the development of local energy resources, that timeframe was too long;

Carbon Sequestration: Both Sen. Mary Jo White and Ray Musto (D-Luzerne) asked about the status of an initiative underway in DCNR to identify opportunities for carbon sequestration to help combat climate change. Secretary DiBerardinis said the project fit with his agency’s over all mission to look into the future for opportunities to use resources under his jurisdiction to the benefit of the Commonwealth, noting there are many opportunities for carbon sequestration in State Forests, in geologic sequestration and for the use of biomass;

Wild Resource Fund Tax Credit: Secretary DiBerardinis said he supported extending the current December 31, 2007 sunset on the Wild Resource Conservation Fund tax checkoff in reponse to a question from Sen. Musto;

State Mapping: Sen. John Pippy (R-Allegheny) asked about the PAMAP program to develop digital maps of the Commonwealth and their potential use for flood prevention, homeland security and for local and county planning and to avoid duplication with other state mapping being done. Secretary DiBerardinis said the entire state has been completed and they are now in the process of signing agreements to use the mapping with counties. He said they have coordinated the project with the Governor’s Office of Administration to avoid duplicating what other agencies are doing.

Rustic Lodges: Secretary DiBerardinis said, in response to a question from Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), that Pennsylvania needs to develop the next generation of overnight accommodations in State Parks, including rustic lodges that use green building techniques and have a conservation message. The focus and attraction in a State Park, however, should always be the resource, not a golf course, spa or resort the Secretary said.

Entrance Fee: Sen. Wozniak also expressed support for a State Parks entrance fee to offset the cost of operating the parks, noting a $1 per person fee would raise about $35 million a year. Secretary DiBerardinis said the parks do charge for extra services like boat rentals, camp sites and cabins which generate $12-14 million a year, but said the cost of imposing the fee at parks, some of which have 15 entrances, could be prohibitive.

Deer Management: Secretary DiBerardinis said his agency and the Game Commission have a close working relationship on the deer management issue, in response to a question from Sen. Bob Regola (R-Westmoreland). In addition to overflights of State Forest/Park areas to determine the location and size of the deer herds, DCNR is also doing a forest regeneration study to further document the impacts of the deer herd. He noted we can have a long-term healthy habitat and properly manage the deer herd.

Gypsy Moth Spraying: In response to a question from Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) about the need for a $2.4 million supplemental appropriation for the gypsy moth spraying program, Dr. James Grace, Director of the Bureau of Forestry said an unanticipated increase in the area affected by gypsy moths cased the need for additional funding;

Illegal Dumping: James Grace said illegal dumping is still very much an issue in State Forests, in response to a question from Sen. Vance. “As waste disposal costs have become more expensive, dumping in State Forests and Parks have become more of an issue,” said Grace.

Secretary DiBerardinis’ opening statement is available online.


3/2/2007

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