Local game lands tours scheduled
Luzerne and Wyoming counties: Sunday, Oct. 8, State Game Lands 57. Registration to be held from 7:30 a.m. until noon at the headquarters on State Game Lands 57, Ricketts Station, Forkston Township, Wyoming County. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat-improvement projects. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance are required for this 30-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will pass habitat-improvement projects completed by the State Game Lands 57 food and cover crew with help from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Whitetails Unlimited, and Ducks Unlimited. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions.
Directions: Take state Route 487 north from state Route 118 and proceed 7.5 miles. Turn right onto the dirt road near the game lands sign on the right. Travel 0.1 miles to “Y” intersection and proceed 0.3 miles to the headquarters complex. Each vehicle will be provided with a map and brief explanation of wildlife habitat management programs being conducted.
Carbon County: Sunday, Oct. 1, on State Game Lands 141, which is nearly 17,048 acres. Registration will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the large parking lot along state Route 93 on State Game Lands 141, Nesquehoning Township. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for this 9-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will begin at the large parking area on the east side state Route 93 and travels east on a game lands road toward the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and back to state Route 93, exiting at the parking lot across from the game lands shooting range. The tour will pass habitat-improvement projects completed by the game lands food and cover crew stationed in Carbon County, along with help from the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Ruffed Grouse Society. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat improvement projects.
Directions: Take state Route 93 north from state Route 209 and proceed 3.5 miles and turn right into the parking lot. Proceed through the gate on a dirt road. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife and habitat management programs being conducted.
The last time the Pennsylvania Game Commission conducted public tours of three state game lands in the northeast, more than 2,200 people participated.
That was in 2015, and despite the large turnout, the agency decided to cancel the tours last year as various programs were cut to save money. The PGC hasn’t received a hunting license fee increase — its primary means of revenue — since 1999. The state legislature, which must approve a price hike for hunting licenses, has yet to act on several bills that would authorize an increase.
This year, however, the agency has brought back the game-lands tours throughout the state, including State Game Lands 57 in Luzerne and Wyoming counties (Oct. 8), SGL 141 in Carbon County (Oct. 1) and possibly SGL 12 in Bradford County. The tour on SGL 12 is pending due to extensive road damage caused by flooding.
While the agency hasn’t realized any new revenue that has allowed the tours to be brought back, spokesman Travis Lau said money was “moved around” to make the program possible.
Lau added that the PGC has placed a high priority on public outreach, and the game lands tours allow citizens to better appreciate the importance of wildlife and the agency’s role in managing and protecting the resource.
Bill Williams, information and education coordinator for the PGC’s Northeast Region, said agency crews have been busy improving roads and infrastructure on game lands in anticipation of the tours.
“They’re very popular. A lot of people were really disappointed when the tours weren’t scheduled last year,” Williams said.
The tours allow the public to explore the game lands while driving on service roads. Highlights of the SGL 57 tour include habitat improvement projects, the use of deer exclosures, wood duck boxes, forestry, a stop at one of the largest red spruce stands in the country, and historic aspects of the 44,600-acre parcel.
In addition to PGC personnel, representatives from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Whitetails Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and other organizations will be available to answer questions.
“These tours showcase what Game Commission food-and-cover crews, as well as volunteers from several conservation organizations, have accomplished for wildlife on public land,” said Northeast Region Director Daniel Figured. “The habitat improvements have immediate and long-term benefits for both game and nongame species, particularly where the forest canopy hinders understory growth and invasive plants choke out native plants.”
From the left are: Game Lands maintenance worker Don Gromel; Game Lands group supervisor Jim Jolley; Dale Butler (NWTF), Steve Germick (Whitetails Unlimited) and Game Lands maintenance foreman Jim Roberts. The group worked to plant a food plot on game lands 57, which will be showcased during a public tour on Oct. 8.