The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is encouraging local governments and nonprofit groups which are interested in providing or improving public boating facilities to apply for funding through the agency's Boating Facilities Grant Program by Friday, Dec. 18.

"The program is designed to help local governments and eligible nonprofit groups, including land trusts, conservancies and watershed associations, to provide or improve public recreational boat access facilities in their communities," PFBC executive director Doug Austen said. "Private businesses are not eligible for direct funding, but are encouraged to partner with their local government for funding."

Eligible activities include the rehabilitation, expansion or construction of new boat ramps, bulkheads, courtesy floats, access roads, parking areas, restrooms, signs and localized landscaping. Activities must benefit and directly support public recreational boating, and eligible projects must occur on public lands owned by the project sponsor, or where the sponsor has a long-term lease or agreement on the site.

Recipients in the grant program will be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the costs for land acquisition, project design and engineering, development, expansion and major rehabilitation. Funds are to be used only for major site improvements and not for routine maintenance or operation activities.

Successful applicants must agree to provide a 25 percent grant match and be willing to enter into a long-term agreement to keep the facility open to free public use for its useful life. The PFBC will give priority-funding consideration to applicants that provide more than the required 25 percent match, thereby reducing the total amount of grant funds required to complete the project.

This program is a reimbursable grant program, and grant funds will be disbursed to the recipient only after the project is completed and agency staff has verified that the work has been completed. Grant funds are derived from boat registration fees, state fuel taxes collected on fuel used in motorboats, and taxes on fishing equipment and motorboat fuel from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program – not from general state funds.

For more information about the Boating Facilities Grant Program and an application, visit the Boating Facilities Grant Program link on the PFBC web site at www.fishandboat.com or call 717-705-7842.

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Hawk Mountain Sanctuary will hold its "Holiday Open House," Friday, Nov. 27, with activities scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to a variety of seminars and exhibits, complimentary hot cider will be served and soft pretzels will be available.

Here is the schedule:

10 a.m., Live Raptor Program, amphitheater; 11 a.m., Critter Craft Ornaments, visitor center gallery; Noon, Chippy Chipmunk, picture book reading and signing by author Kathy Miller; 1 p.m., Live Raptor Program, amphitheater; 1:30 p.m., Hawk Mountain Slideshow and book signing by coffee table book author Jim Wright; 2:15 p.m.,All-Natural Holiday Arrangement Making (small vase or basket is required); 2:30 p.m., Book Reading; 3 p.m., Hawk Mountain Optics Raffle Drawing.

For more information, contact Hawk Mountain Sanctuary by calling 610-756-6961, e-mailing info@hawkmountain.org, or visit on the web at www.hawkmountain.org.

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Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer Kevin Clouser will conclude his discussion of the upcoming Pennsylvania black bear seasons as today's guest on "Experience the Outdoors" with Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz on Oldies 1410-AM, from 7:30-8 a.m. There will be a rebroadcast of the program Sunday, from 9:30-10 a.m., on Magic, WMGH, 105.5-FM.

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This year's "Cabela's Deer Classic" is underway through Sunday, at the outdoors retailers Hamburg store, and seminars will be held today and Sunday. For more information about the Cabela's 2009 Deer Classic, access the Web site at www.cabelas.com or call the Hamburg store at 610-929-7040.

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Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director Carl Roe reminds successful hunters who take a black bear during the three-day statewide season, Monday-Wednesday, Nov. 23-25, or extended season, Monday-Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 5, or Wednesday-Saturday, Dec. 2-5, depending on the wildlife management unit, they must take it to one of the PGC check stations within 24 hours. Check stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on all three days. After 8 p.m., Nov. 25, hunters with bears to be checked should contact any of the agency's region offices for assistance. Office telephone numbers are listed on Page 3 of the "2009-10 Hunting and Trapping Digest" issued with hunting licenses.

During the extended season, some stations that were open for the three-day season will not be open or have different hours of operation. Information is available on Page 36 of the digest.

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A muzzleloader shoot will be held, Sunday, Dec. 13, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., by the First Frontier Militia at Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club, Gun Club Road, off Route 248, Bowmanstown. For information, call Roger Fisher at 610-377-2812.

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Complimentary, one-year memberships are being offered to first-time members by the National Rifle Association. According to an NRA spokesperson in the membership department, this is being done in an effort to familiarize firearms owners and shooters with the organization's services and programs.

To register for a complimentary NRA membership, access the special Web site at

www.nrahq.org/nrabonus/accept-membership.asp.

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As part of its popular patch collection offerings, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has commissioned a new patch to promote the Mentored Youth Hunting Program.Accompanying the 4.5x3.5-inch patch is a Saf-T Plug that acts as a visual cue that the action of any pump-action or semi-automatic shotgun is open and safe.The two items sell for $7, including sales tax, and can be obtained at any Game Commission office or through "The Outdoor Shop" on the agency's Web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us.

To order online, click on "The Outdoor Shop" icon in the right-hand column of the homepage, then choose "Pennsylvania Game Commission Outdoor Shop" in the lower left-hand corner of the page, select "Merchandise" in the banner, select "Patches" in the left-hand column and scroll down to "2009 Mentored Youth Patch & PGC Saf-T Plug." Orders also can be made by calling 1-888-888-3459.