$15.8M federal investment approved to restore Delaware River watershed

·11 min read

Aug. 28—WILKES-BARRE — The U.S. Department of the Interior this week announced a nearly $15.8 million investment in the Delaware River watershed to improve wildlife habitat, enhance resilience to climate change, and engage under-served communities in conservation.

Funding for 45 grants will be provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and William Penn Foundation through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund (DWCF) and Delaware River Restoration Fund (DRRF), in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

This includes $4.7 million from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support innovative green-infrastructure projects that contribute to the health and economic vitality of communities in the watershed.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a $1.4 billion down payment in the conservation and stewardship of America's public lands that will lead to better outdoor spaces and habitats for people and wildlife for generations to come.

That includes a historic $26 million investment over the next five years in the Delaware River watershed. These funds align with the America the Beautiful initiative, investing in locally led efforts to support collaborative conservation and protect the lands, waters and wildlife on which we all depend.

"The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a historic down payment in ensuring that future generations have clean air, drinkable water, fertile soil and an overall quality of life that is currently threatened by the worsening climate crisis," said Secretary Deb Haaland. "These investments in the resilience and restoration of America's lands, rivers and watersheds will safeguard clean drinking water, protect wildlife habitat and ensure a healthy, sustainable environment for our future."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams added, "Through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are advancing proven projects and partnerships to help address the needs of people and wildlife in the face of climate change. Today's historic investment will improve fish and wildlife habitat and directly engage under-served communities in addressing issues such as flood mitigation, water quality and safe access to nature where they live."

"From its headwaters in New York to Delaware Bay, the Delaware River flows nearly 330 miles through the heart of the densely populated mid-Atlantic region," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "Along its entire path, the Delaware River provides drinking water to more than 15 million people and habitats for a host of wildlife species, from red knots and other shorebirds to iconic and economically valuable fish such as alewives, American shad and eastern brook trout. This year's significant investment will allow our grantees and their partners to implement projects that benefit people and wildlife and make real conservation gains."

The new funding was announced at an event held on the banks of the Brandywine River. Overall, the awards will improve more than 10,000 acres through enhanced voluntary management and the voluntary treatment of polluted runoff using agricultural conservation practices on about 2,200 acres, restore 439 acres of wetlands, plant over 50,000 trees, and open more than 65 miles for fish passage.

The Delaware River watershed covers 13,539 square miles of land and water, running from the Catskills in New York through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, ultimately emptying into the Delaware Bay.

The watershed is home to a remarkable variety of species and their habitats — from mountainside cold water streams to tidal salt marshes — that are economically, ecologically and culturally important to the region. Urban and suburban waterways play a major role in the watershed's communities, with headwaters in neighboring rural and agricultural areas.

Grant projects are implemented across this variety of landscapes, improving wildlife habitat and human communities, accelerating implementation of best practices, providing opportunities for people to engage with nature, and ultimately benefiting water quality locally and for those downstream.

Elk cam back for

another season

Can't wait for the September peak of Pennsylvania's elk rut?

Get a jump-start now with the Game Commission's Elk Cam.

The Game Commission again has installed a camera on State Game Lands 311 in Elk County, in a field that typically is a hub of elk activity as the bugling season heats up. Video and sound from the camera are being live-streamed at www.pgc.pa.gov, and viewers can expect not only to see elk, but turkeys, deer and other wildlife, as well.

Elk, which in the coming weeks will ramp up activity — with bulls becoming more vocal and competing with one another for available cows — always seem to take center stage, however. And enjoying the show is just a few clicks away.

"Elk are fascinating animals and the spectacle of their bugling season draws plenty of onlookers, sometimes from hundreds of miles away," said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. "That same dynamic is what makes the Elk Cam so popular with viewers. And the Game Commission is proud to bring it back for yet another run."

The live-stream, which is provided by HDOnTap and made possible with the help of the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, is the latest in a string of real-time wildlife-watching opportunities offered by the Game Commission.

"HDOnTap is excited to partner with the Pennsylvania Game Commission for another year of the live cam in elk country," said Kate Alexander, Director of Marketing with HDOnTap. "Last year, over a million viewers tuned in for the many sights and sounds of activity on the field. It's a thrill to see the wide range of Pennsylvania wildlife roaming in the field live 24/7. Elk activity is consistent, though unexpected appearances from black bears and coyotes add to the joy for viewers of this cam, it's no wonder why the live elk cam is so popular year after year!"

The stream can be accessed at the home page at www.pgc.pa.gov by clicking on the Elk Cameras link provided in the "Popular Now" category. The agency's elk webpage also contains information on Pennsylvania's elk, where to view them, and contains a link to the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors website, which provides all sorts of handy information for anyone visiting elk country.

Each September, thousands of visitors make their way to Pennsylvania's elk country to experience for themselves the wonder of the bugling season.

The Game Commission reminds visitors to the elk range to always be "Elk Smart." Give elk space, never feed elk, don't name elk and do your part to ensure the welfare of the herd. Enjoy your time in elk country and help keep Pennsylvania elk wild.

The PA Game Elk Cam is slated to run until the end of the bugling season, likely sometime in mid-October. The top time to see elk on camera is late in the afternoon.

Back Woods Bass Results

Bob Strunk reports the results of the Back Woods Bass tournaments for the past week.

Week of Aug. 23

Wednesday Night Harveys Lake Lunker

1st Place: Cody Cutter, 3.73 lbs.

2nd Place: Jim Roberts, 3.44 lbs.

3rd Place: Brian Cutter, 3.03 lbs.

4th Place: Shaun Kucharski, 2.84 lbs.

5th Place: Ryan Fox, 2.73 lbs.

6th Place: George Gendler Jr., 2.15 lbs.

7th Place: Harlow Rolands, 2.09 lbs.

8th Place: Frank Kline, 1.91 lbs.

9th Place: Joe Simko, 1.88 lbs.

10th Place: Andrea Harris, 1.75 lbs.

Harveys Lake Friday Night

1at Place: Duane & Nick Deno, 11 lbs. 5 oz.

2nd Place: Johnny Niezgoda/Brad Rinehimer, 11 lbs. 2 oz.

Also won Lunker Award, 3 lbs. 7 oz.

3rd Place: Gary & Aaron Hayman, 9 lbs. 1 oz.

4th Place: John & Evan Stravinski, 8 lbs. 8 oz.

5th Place: Slick & Dark Cloud Harris, 8 lbs. 6 oz.

6th Place: Matt Fredmonski, 8 lbs.

7th Place: Silas Farrow/Mitch Bailey, 7 lbs.

8th Place: Timmy Harris/Mike Hieser, 3 lb.s 13 oz.

9th Place: Damien Strohl, 2 lbs. 8 oz.

10th Place: Randy Ritsick, 2 lbs. 3 oz.

Pennsylvanians can help

watch for rabbit disease

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is asking members of the public to report any hare/rabbit mortality events — defined as finding two or more dead hares/rabbits at the same location with an unknown cause of death — by calling 1-833-PGC-WILD, or by using the online Wildlife Health Survey reporting tool at — https://www.pgcapps.pa.gov/WHS.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, two captive rabbits from a facility located in Fayette County tested positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2), one of the viruses that causes Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD).

Domestic rabbit owners who have questions about this disease should contact their veterinarians, who in turn should immediately report suspected cases of RHD to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal Health at — 717-772-2852, option 1. Veterinarians can call this line anytime.

Outbreaks of RHDV2 have previously been reported in domestic and wild rabbits across the United States. As of August 2022, it is considered endemic in wild lagomorph (hare/rabbit) populations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. It's been detected in domestic rabbit populations in those states, as well as Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin.

And now Pennsylvania — the Fayette County case marks its first occurrence here.

The Game Commission has an RHD Management Plan in place. It outlines various strategies the agency may consider to protect Pennsylvania's wild rabbits and hares. That plan can be found at — https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/WildlifeHealth/Pages/Rabbit-Hemorrhagic-Disease.aspx.

"RHD poses a significant threat to the Commonwealth's cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare populations, and as such, the Game Commission is taking this recent detection very seriously," said Dr. Andrew Di Salvo, Game Commission veterinarian. "We are working diligently to learn more about this occurrence of RHD and determine what actions, if any, to take and when."

RHDV2 is a highly pathogenic and contagious virus affecting hares, rabbits and closely related species. First identified in domestic rabbits in France in 2010, it has since caused mass die-offs in wild hare and rabbit populations in several countries. It showed up in the United States in early 2020 and is now already considered endemic in wild rabbit populations in some western states.

The disease is spread from animal to animal several ways, including direct animal-to-animal contact, ingestion of contaminated food or water; inhalation; contact with contaminated equipment, tools and enclosures; viral movement by flies, birds, biting insects, predators, scavengers and humans; and contact with urine, feces and respiratory discharges from infected individuals. The virus can survive on clothing, shoes, plant material or other items that could accidentally be moved from an infected area by humans or other animals.

Hares and rabbits that do not immediately die following infection may present with poor appetites, lethargy, and blood coming from their mouths or noses.

There is no specific treatment for RHD and it is often fatal, with die-offs of local populations potentially reaching 75 to 100%. The virus is very resilient and may remain on the landscape for months, too.

RHD poses no human health risk. However, multiple dead or sick hares and rabbits can also be a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in humans. Therefore, it's important that the public not handle or consume wildlife that appears sick or has died from an unknown cause. It is also important to prevent pets from contacting or consuming wildlife carcasses.

'Learn to Hunt' with Pa.

Game Commission this fall

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will, once again, be providing free webinars to teach people of all ages how to hunt. Learn to Hunt webinars include information on where to hunt, what you need to hunt, hunting tips and tactics, and preparing game for the table.

The series kicks off this Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. with a webinar on squirrel hunting. Additional webinars — two on archery deer hunting on Sept. 7, and Sept. 21, and one on pheasant hunting Oct. 5 — will be provided.

Webinars are approximately one hour long and are followed by a question-and-answer session. Each webinar is recorded and is made available to watch later on the Game Commission's Learn to Hunt webpage, and those who register receive an email after the live event to access the recording.

Register for webinars or learn more at: http://bit.ly/pgclearntohunt.