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Task Force to Study Commonwealth-Owned Lands pursuant to House Resolution 49

 Collection — Box: Box 1 of 1
Identifier: 02-SS2001_04

Scope and Contents

The Task Force began their work in early 2002 meeting with specialists in the forestry and conservation industries. The bulk of this collection includes materials generated from these meetings and hearings, either public or informational. Following are descriptions of these meetings and hearings.

During the March 12, 2002 informational meeting, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) State Forester, James R. Grace, Ph.D., provided an overview of Pennsylvania’s timber industry. Specifics discussed include: harvest rates and values, composition of standing timber inventory and dispersion throughout the state, impacts of deer herds, oil and gas leases, as well as recreational uses. DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is responsible for 2.1 million acres of Forest in PA. On March 14, 2002, a meeting at the Penn State Conference Center featured presentations from Dr. Charles Strauss, Interim Director of the School of Forestry, on the current status of the school; Dr. Larry McCormick, Professor of Forest Resources and Chair of the Forest Science Program, on the Forest Science Program; and Dr. Todd Bowersox, Professor of Silviculture, on his work with the PA Game Commission and uses for Internet information exchange. Joe Fiedor, District Forester for DCNR, lead a discussion regarding the 1999 helicopter salvage operation for “blow-down” timber at Ricketts Glen State Park. Finally, Dr. Straus also discussed the University’s Northwest Pennsylvania Study and the impacts of Federal logging regulations in the Allegheny National Forest.

On July 10, 2002, the Task Force held a Public Hearing at Blue Knob Resort Conference Center in Claysburg, PA, where they discussed further commercialization of state-owned lands for recreational purposes. In the collection, a brief overview of the Pennsylvania State Park system is provided, as well as a detailing of their four-part mission. Development of lodging facilities at Prince Gallitzin and other State Park land was discussed by Rick Reeves, Deputy Director for Tourism Development Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau. In coordination with the Sierra Club of PA, Wendel V. Allen Jr. presented an overview of environmental mismanagement issues at Blue Knob State Park and Blue Knob All Seasons Resort, including erosion and illegal dumping. The Task Force travelled to Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV on July 11, 2002 where they met with government officials and representatives of private industry to obtain perspectives on West Virginia’s initiatives for commercialization of state land for recreational purposes. Speakers included: Robert W. Gilligan, Superintendent of Blackwater Falls State Park; Samuel England, Superintendent of Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park; Liz Schuppert, U.S. Forest Service; Fran Shupp, President of Tucker County Chamber of Commerce; Crystal Roth, Executive Director of Tucker County Chamber of Commerce; and Lois Reed, Manager of the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge. The meeting folder in this collection only contains informational pamphlets and brochures, but full testimony from this meeting is available in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Public Hearing Database. On August 4, 2002, a public hearing was held at Ricketts Glen State Park in Sullivan County, PA to obtain information on the forestry management practices on state-owned lands. William E. Sharpe, Ph.D., Professor of Forest Hydrology from Pennsylvania State University, presented testimony detailing the effects of acid rain, soil nutrient levels, and reduction of deer population. A representative of Wheeland Lumber Company of Liberty, PA expressed concerns for a lack of adequate regeneration, and suggested a user fee structure for other commercial operations that use public land such as hunting outfitters. A privately owned lumber mill operator testified about his concerns for the management of deer herds, as well as blow-down timber salvaging operations. Chief Forester for Deer Park Lumber, Inc. testified regarding the acquisition of public forest land. The final public hearing was held on September 19, 2002 at the Warren County Public Library in Warren, PA. The testimony from a private citizen provided comparisons of state park facilities of various neighboring and western states. The speaker also called for promotion of Pennsylvania’s Great North Woods as one of the largest wilderness areas in the Eastern U.S. and as a rival of New York State’s Adirondack recreational area. Testimony from Foresting Industry representatives addressed the following issues: House Bill 2799 (establishing procedures for reviewing environmental policy actions and providing for notice, hearings and appeals), requirements for environmental impact statements, deer over browse problems, opposition to taxpayer’s money for park development, all terrain vehicle (ATV) and snowmobile restrictions, eco-terrorism, support for increase of hardwood harvest to levels of the mid 1990’s, and House Bill 1696 (allocating 5% of timber sales for forestry research). The Final Report of the Task Force on Commonwealth-Owned Lands in Pennsylvania touched on all issues mentioned in the paragraphs above, and in particular called for review of the DCNR bidding procedure to better enable small lumber mill operators’ participation, for PENNDOT to review its policy regarding road bonds, for increasing the state’s reimbursement rate to local jurisdictions for property tax lost as a result of lands obtained by the state, for requiring DCNR to update state park amenities and improve the image of state parks, for authorizing a resolution to create a Joint State Government Commission Task Force in 2003-2004 to further define and recommend economic development of the state forestry system.

Dates

  • 2001-2002

Creator

Extent

0.25 Cubic Feet

0.25 Cubic Feet

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged in two series: Series 1. Meetings, Tours, and Public Hearings; and Series 2. Final Report.

Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

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Repository Details

Part of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Archives Repository

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