Again this year, it has been a busy spring for the Pennsylvania Game Commission teams of land managers, foresters and Food and Cover Corps crews.
While homeowners have to concern themselves with such projects as weeding flower beds, landscaping improvements and, perhaps, planting a garden, PGC personnel have the task of habitat improvement projects on the more than 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands.
Many of those projects have taken place in the immediate area and surrounding counties.
Michael Beahm, PGC Land Management Group Supervisor for Carbon, Luzerne, Lackawanna and Monroe counties, said an area of SGL 119 in Luzerne County underwent major habitat changes.
Affected is a 30-acre area of fescue grasses and scattered food plots close to Francis E. Walter Dam.
"Each fall, the area is utilized as a youth pheasant hunt site with marginal habitat, and this spring, a prescribed burn removed the heavy thatch created from the fescue cover," Beahm said. "It is followed by an herbicide application and replanting the area with native warm-season grasses, and while these changes will take a couple years to mature, but wildlife value will improve greatly along with the hunting.
"Each year, local NWTF chapters fund habitat projects on State Game Lands across Pennsylvania, and this year, we planted 42 mature crabapple trees that were about 10- to 12-feet tall on State Game Landss 135, 186 and 187. They will provide a valuable soft-mass crop in during the fall and winter months.
"Additionally, the NWTF funded three acres of clover plantings on SGL 187 in Luzerne County . The funding for the projects was made possible from the money raised at local NWTF Hunting Heritage banquets."
Beahm said on SGL 127, the Food and Cover Corps crew worked hard to open a road on Artillery Ridge this past winter that had slowly grown shut over the years and also sustained severe ice damage.
This spring, the crews planted the road with a clover mix, which will greatly improve the brooding habitat in this area for grouse and turkey, and provide excellent browse for the deer and rabbits.
In addition, the Food and Cover Corps crews are establishing a new food plot on SGL 129. For the last few years, a new food plot has been being planted along Schoch Mill Road .
"After inspecting several food plots, with the Game Lands Maintenance Supervisor Tony Colecio, and seeing how heavily they are used by the deer and turkeys, we knew this was the year to get it done," Beahm said. "Once the food plot is opened up, it will be planted with buckwheat for the first couple years to improve the soil.
"These projects are always exciting. It's like building the field of dreams, knowing their full potential impact."
On SGL 110 in Schuylkill and Berks counties, LMGS Matt Belding said the Charles Bechtel Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society had a working field day with more than 25 volunteers attending to plant 1,000, three-year old white spruce.
The evergreens will provide winter and escape cover not only for the grouse, but for many other species of wildlife.
According to PGC executive director Carl Roe, the agency 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 2009-10 license year, the PGC sold 846,293 resident and nonresident adult general hunting licenses and 867,697 antlerless deer licenses, for a total minimum of $5,332,139.
In reality, the agency spent $5,902,523 on habitat improvement projects, which was $570,384 more that the legislatively-mandated minimum.
Landowners interested in developing "backyard habitats" beneficial to wildlife can order "Landscaping for Wildlife in Pennsylvania " from the PGC.
The 160-page book costs $9.43, plus state sales tax and shipping and handling, and can be purchased through the "The Outdoor Shop" on the agency's website at www.pgc.state.pa.us in the "General Store" section in the menu bar at the top of the homepage or by calling 1-888-888-3459.