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Casey and Fetterman call on officials to abandon the plan to endanger the PA Wilds

WILKES-BARRE – U.S. Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman announced this week that the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau have withdrawn their proposal to create a low-flying training zone, the Duke Military Operating Area (MOA), that would allow pilots to as such, flying low as 100 feet above the ground.

After hearing concerns from north-central Pennsylvania organizations and residents about the potential dangers this plan would pose to the economy, environment and quality of life of the Pennsylvania Wilds region, Casey and Fetterman repeatedly called on the Air Force to do so urged to abandon the plan.

“From the moment the Air Force proposal was announced, I was deeply concerned about how low, noisy and frequent flights could impact livelihoods in a quiet region that specializes in outdoor recreation,” said Senator Casey , D-Scranton. “After years of urging the Air Force to abandon this plan, I am pleased that they are respecting the wishes of the people of north-central Pennsylvania. I will always fight to preserve the PA Wilds and the rest of the natural resources that make our commonwealth so beautiful.”

Sen. Fetterman, D-Braddock, said this decision is a huge win not only for the beloved natural resources in the Pennsylvania Wilds, but also for the many Pennsylvania residents who call this region home.

“I am proud to have fought and delivered alongside Senator Casey for these all-too-often forgotten communities in north-central Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “I am also committed to working with our partners in the Air Force and National Guard to ensure our military remains strong and prepared – and I know we can do that while ensuring Pennsylvanians’ voices are heard become.”

Since its initial proposal, the Duke MOA Low Flying Training Zone has faced strong opposition from Pennsylvania state officials, local leaders, conservation groups and community members, who highlighted the potential negative impacts on the local economy, public health and safety, and outdoor recreation.

After hearing their constituents' concerns, Casey and Fetterman advocated forcefully for the Air Force to be barred from adopting this plan.

DEP begins in black in 2024 Fly suppression program

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched its blackfly control program in 2024 and is monitoring and treating 48 rivers and streams spanning more than 1,800 miles.

“As the weather warms, Pennsylvanians will be spending more time outdoors, and black flies (mosquitoes) are a nuisance that can make outdoor life a lot less fun,” said Jessica Shirley, acting DEP secretary . “This annual treatment program reduces this nuisance so Pennsylvanians and visitors can fully enjoy their outdoor activities.”

The program includes aerial and back spraying. The spraying work is carried out by both helicopters and ground personnel. Helicopter treatments involve planes flying low over waterways and dispensing treatment material that looks like chocolate milk.

DEP uses Bti, a naturally occurring bacteria, to treat the larval stage of four specific blackfly species. This bacterium breaks down quickly in the environment, is not toxic to fish, and does not harm the aquatic ecosystem, humans, birds, or other insects.

The frequency of treatments depends on the weather and biological conditions. Treatments cannot be carried out during periods of heavy rain or high water levels as these conditions reduce the effectiveness of the treatment and significantly increase the cost of control measures.

Prior to any spraying activity, DEP notifies county and local emergency management officials. Shown are helicopters flying over waterways and ground crews deploying backpack sprayers from bridges and wading through streams to conduct control missions on behalf of DEP's blackfly control program.

Anyone concerned at the sight of a helicopter or ground crew is asked to call the county emergency management office to make sure blackfly control is being conducted in their area that day.

Spray notifications can also be found on the DEP Vector Management Program website (pa.gov) and click on the 2024 Spray Notifications link. This schedule is subject to change depending on weather and water conditions.

Pa. Name of the game commission Smith new managing director

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a new executive director.

Stephen Smith, who has served as acting general manager since February, was appointed to his new role this week by the Board of Game Commissioners, which met in executive session.

Smith replaces Bryan Burhans, who served as the agency's managing director since 2017. Burhans resigned from his position on Monday and his resignation was accepted by the board at the board meeting.

Commissioner Scott Foradora thanked Burhans for his service and explained the steps.

“Not every hunter agrees with every issue or change that affects them, but with Bryan and the decisions he was a part of, you always knew his heart was in the right place,” said Foradora, the president of the board. “He cares deeply about Pennsylvania’s wildlife and habitats, especially hunters and those who work to fulfill the Game Commission’s mission, both now and in the future. During his time at the agency, he did a lot for all of them.

“However, the board became aware of circumstances that went beyond job performance and led us to question whether a leadership change would be appropriate,” Foradora said. “It recently came to light that Bryan had a business relationship with several Game Commission employees and earned income through that relationship. That is not to say that there were any ethical violations on his part, but there were doubts about the appropriateness of these business relationships and ultimately he decided to resign.”

Burhans said his resignation will give him more time to spend with family, including his newborn grandson.

“Every wildlife agency director has a life expectancy, with the national average being about three years of service,” Burhans said. “My seven-year term is longer than many others. I've learned from so many great leaders that you have to recognize when it's time to go. Now is my time.”

Smith said that when he takes office as executive director, he will require an independent third party to review the Game Commission's supplemental employment policies to ensure agency employees and all citizens of the Commonwealth that any questions about appropriate supplemental employment are answered in advance from time.

Additionally, Smith said that in his new role he will work hard to ensure that Pennsylvania's hunting tradition and the agency's work to uphold it through the management and protection of wildlife and habitat continue.

“This is a crucial time for the Game Commission and the future of hunting, trapping and wildlife conservation,” Smith said. “The work we do now will have a lasting impact on generations to come, ensuring they enjoy the same opportunities we have had for centuries. It is an honor to serve in this capacity.”

A native of Berks County, Smith graduated with honors from West Chester University with a degree in political science. He then earned a law degree from Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Smith joined the agency in 2008 after practicing law for several years.

Prior to his appointment as deputy director, Smith served as director of the Game Commission's Office of Information and Education.

DCNR launches “Remake”. “Learning Days” in the state parkS

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced this week that the agency will host more than 30 educational programs at 24 state parks from May 2-22 to mark “Remake Learning Days.” support.

Remake Learning Days is a global learning festival that brings together children, families, community cultural centers and educators to share the benefits of collaborative, hands-on learning.

Launched in 2016 by Remake Learning, this celebration highlights transformative experiences and opportunities for youth to develop their sense of creativity, perseverance, curiosity and fun alongside others.

“Our state parks and forests are open for healthy outdoor adventures in all four seasons and we hope people take advantage of Remake Learning Days to explore what our public lands have to offer,” Dunn said. “Thank you to the DCNR staff for making these events and programs interactive and entertaining for visitors new and old.”

The following Pennsylvania State Parks are participating in Remake Learning Days 2024:

Bald Eagle State Park

Beltzville State Park

Chapman State Park

Frances Slocum State Park

Gifford Pinchot State Park

Hills Creek State Park

Hyner Run State Park

Kings Gap Environmental Education Center

Lackawanna State Park

Little Buffalo State Park

Little Pine State Park

Memorial Lake State Park

Nescopeck State Park

Ohiopyle State Park

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Pymatuning State Park

Ralph Stover State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park

Sinnemahoning State Park

Sizerville State Park

Susquehannock State Park

Swatara State Park

Vosburgh Neck State Park

Washington Crossing Historic Park

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