Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Book: Wildfires Across Pennsylvania: The Fires Of Penn's Woods By Michael Klimkos

Almost everyday news accounts show video and still photos of entire towns devastated by wildfires. Terms like “largest in history,” or “a community destroyed by a wildfire,” are common as news reporters in yellow firefighter shirts stand before the cameras.
A hundred and twenty years ago the same kind of devastation was found in Pennsylvania.
But it doesn’t take a 300,000 acre fire to be significant. If it is your family, house, barn or place of employment that was burned, it is immaterial whether the fire burned a thousand acres or two acres. The fire was significant!
As the great forests of Pennsylvania were cleared, the slash and debris left by loggers was prone to burn – and it did! Huge fires once raged through the forest of Pennsylvania.
While certainly not on the scale of the fires that have burned across the American West in the recent years, the wildfires that have burned in Pennsylvania took lives, disrupted families and businesses, burned homes, farms and even entire towns.
The fires provided the impetus for the founding of the science of forestry and wildfire control in the Keystone State.
The Fires of Penn’s Woods is a detailed historical account of how fires –some quite large and some quite small-- impacted Pennsylvania and shaped what is today a sustainable forest that has regrown from the Great Pennsylvania Desert-- the land that was left after industrial logging virtually cleared the state of its trees by the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
Until now there has not been a comprehensive history that has documented wildfires in Pennsylvania to this extent. This thoroughly researched and meticulously detailed book describes how the science of forestry, wildfire prevention, and fire control has grown in Pennsylvania.
This book is a must read for firefighter, foresters and others with an interest in Pennsylvania history.
The author, Michael Klimkos is retired from the Department of Environmental Protection. For twenty-five years he was a volunteer firefighter and a member of wildland firefighting crews.
He has previously authored, A History of Trout Unlimited and the Environmental Movement: 1959 – 2000, (2003), and compiled and edited The Letort: A Limestone Legacy, (2015). He is the past editor of Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide magazine.
Mike is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association.
He writes from his home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The book is available through Amazon, as well as other retail booksellers. For information on how to obtain a signed copy, or find out where the author is doing a book signing or presentation, visit Michael Klimkos’ website.
PA Forest Heritage Association
Michael Klimkos is active in the PA Forest Heritage Association dedicated to preserving and showcasing the heritage of forest conservation and forest fire protection in Pennsylvania and is editor of its newsletter.
Visit the Discovery Center at Caledonia State Park in Franklin County to learn more about Pennsylvania’s forest fire fighting heritage.
Click Here to contact the PFHA for more information on the programs, initiatives and upcoming events.  Click Here for the Association’s latest newsletter.

Sunday PA Environmental NewsClips

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Jan. 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

The January 1 PA Environment Digest is now available.

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Agriculture Accepting Research Grant Proposals On Lanternfly, Reducing Nutrient Loads, Other Issues Affecting Agriculture

Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding Friday announced more than $860,000 in grant funding is now available to researchers interested in finding solutions to some of the most pressing and persistent problems confronting the Commonwealth’s farms and farmers. (formal notice)
The deadline for submitting proposals is January 26.
“Sound research is important to the future of agriculture,” said Redding. “There are a host of challenges and emerging threats that could undermine our ability to grow the food upon which we and our economy depend. Some of these are natural threats, others are the result of a changing marketplace. With better knowledge comes a better understanding of how we can address these real and potential impediments to our continued prosperity.”
The solicitation details areas prioritized for funding during this grant cycle, as well as format requirements for each grant application.
Among the topics prioritized for funding this year are research into the spotted lanternfly; new methods and technologies for cost-effectively reducing nutrient loads to Pennsylvania’s waterways; and the efficacy of various avian vaccinations.
Other areas of focus include research into production agriculture’s ability to access capital, farm safety, and the public return on investment of farmland preservation.
The department will also offer micro-grants to research and support the development of micro-credentials or badges that teach specific workforce development skills; solutions to practical problems of hydroponic and aquaponic operations; and remedies to challenges common in urban agricultural operations.
In total, the Department of Agriculture received more than $1.2 million for agriculture research in the state’s fiscal year 2017-2018 budget.
The more than $860,000 available for these projects represents the balance of funding not dedicated to research projects involving animal agriculture. Nearly $430,000 was made available for animal research projects through the state’s Animal Health and Diagnostic Commission earlier this year.
All proposals will be scored competitively to determine the final grant recipients.
All the details on how to apply are available on the December 30 PA Bulletin notice.

Manada Conservancy Native Plant Sale Pre-Ordering Now Open In Dauphin County

The Manada Conservancy’s Native Plant Pre-Sale is now open online.  Shop the online store for native perennials, trees, and shrubs at a 10 percent discount from the regular sale day price.
Favorites sell out quickly so shop soon for best selection!  Orders must be picked up on Native Plant Sale Day, April 28, at the Hummelstown Borough Park in Dauphin County where you will have the chance to browse our sale-day only selections from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
February 8
Join the Conservancy on February 8 for the Nature Therapy: The Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature as Dr. Matt Silvis explores these benefits and how this directly connects to the vision of Manada Conservancy.
For more information on programs, initiatives and other upcoming events, visit the Manada Conservancy website.

PUC Report: Continued Improvement In Households Starting Winter Without Heat-Related Utilities, Help Available

The Public Utility Commission Friday released the results of its annual Cold Weather Survey, which showed that more than 19,000 households across the state who had their utility service terminated this year are entering the winter season without heat-related utility service or using unsafe heating sources.
That figure is approximately 12-percent lower than last year’s survey (2,730 fewer households starting the winter without heat), and 20-percent lower (4,880 fewer households) than the winter of 2015-- with improvements noted by nearly all the state’s major electric and natural gas distribution companies.
The annual Cold Weather Survey, along with a mid-winter resurvey, serve as “snapshots” to help gauge utility and PUC outreach about heating assistance programs.
The survey tracks the number of households whose heat-related utility service was terminated during the year, and who remain without service at the start of the winter and at the mid-way point of the heating season.
More extensive data about utility service – including terminations; reconnections; the number of low-income and payment-troubled customers; and the size and scope of various customer assistance programs is available in the PUC’s annual Universal Service Report.
“For the third year in a row, we have seen a notable decrease in the number of Pennsylvania families who had their utility service terminated this year and are starting the winter without heat-related electric or natural gas service, or depending on potentially unsafe heating sources,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “Additionally, the direct contact that occurs between utilities and consumers during the survey process resulted in over 33,000 households receiving payment arrangements and being reconnected to service while the survey was still underway – which is the driving purpose of this effort.”
Despite the results of the Cold Weather Survey and the number of pre-winter reconnections, the PUC remains concerned about the thousands of households who struggle stay warm and safe during the winter.
Residents experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to contact their utilities and/or the PUC for information about numerous programs available to help them restore and maintain their utility service.
The 2017 Cold Weather Survey showed the following (as of December 15):
-- 6,351 residences whose utility service was terminated this year are without safe electric heating, including 6,057 households without electric service and 294 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
-- 12,944 residences whose utility service was terminated this year are without safe natural gas heating, including 12,125 households without natural gas service and 819 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
-- Additionally, 11,173 residences where electric service was terminated this year and 4,096 residences where natural gas service was terminated this year now appear to be vacant.
-- Note: Some households may be without both electric and natural gas service, resulting in a double-counting of some households.
According to the survey data, the number of families whose electric utility service was terminated this year and remain without service is 9-percent lower than last winter.
The number of homes where electric utility service was terminated this year, and who are now depending on potentially unsafe heating sources, dropped by 23-percent compared to last winter-- while the number of natural gas customers whose utility service was terminated this year and are now depending on potentially unsafe heating sources, dropped by 28-percent.
Across the state, six of Pennsylvania’s eight major electric distribution companies reported improvements in their Cold Weather Survey data, as did eight of the state’s nine natural gas distribution companies.
The utilities conducting the Cold Weather Survey provide service to more than 5 million residential electric customers and nearly 2.3 million residential natural gas customers.
As part of the Cold Weather Service process, utility representatives attempted to contact approximately 31,000 households using electric heating and approximately 39,000 households using natural gas heating, whose service was terminated this year.
Help Available
“There are a variety of options available to low-income households who are struggling to maintain their heat-related service,” said Chairman Brown. “We encourage anyone experiencing difficulties to call their utilities as soon as possible about a variety of PUC-required assistance programs to help heat their homes or pay their energy bills – such as Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs) and Low-Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP).”
According to the PUC’s most recent Universal Service Report, those assistance programs impact more than 474,500 households and are valued at over $397 million per year.
As part of the annual “Prepare Now” campaign, the Commission continues to appeal to utilities to increase their efforts to educate consumers about other available resources that may be available, such as grants under the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)-- which is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS) – with information available through local County Assistance Offices or via the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
The PUC emphasized that consumers without utility service should understand their rights and responsibilities, including additional options that may be available for those who are seriously ill or are facing other unique circumstances, such as a protection from abuse order.
Consumers should call their utility first to make arrangements to pay their bill. If they are unable to reach an agreement with the utility, the PUC may be able to provide assistance. The PUC can be reached toll-free at 1-800-692-7380.
Every year, the state’s electric and natural gas distribution companies under the PUC’s jurisdiction are required to survey residential properties where service has been terminated and has not been reconnected during this calendar year. Every December, the PUC releases those survey results.
As part of the survey, the utility or its representative makes four attempts to contact consumers who are known to be without heat-related utility service. The attempts may include telephone calls, letters and personal visits to the residence and are done on different days of the week and at different times of the day. If the first three contacts are unsuccessful, the PUC requests that the fourth attempt be an in-person visit to the residence.
Homes using potentially unsafe heating sources are reported separately in the survey because of additional risks in those situations. 
According to the National Fire Protection Association, potentially unsafe sources of heat include kerosene heaters, kitchen stoves or ovens, electric space heaters, fireplaces and connecting extension cords to neighbors’ homes.
For more information on help with winter heating bills, visit the PUC’s Prepare Now webpage.

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