HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a year marked by the renaming of major state forest and parklands in honor of three conservation icons, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn cited three initiatives -- creation of a task force to maximize forest-related jobs, a new online tool to improve customer service for reservations, and an innovative new program putting young people to work in those forests -- as among the department's distinguished accomplishments in 2016.
"That panel's work and closing report represented eight months of hard work by 35 task-force members, many agency staff and experts, all drawn together by Governor Tom Wolf's call to analyze current limitations to forest conservation and job growth, and develop an action plan to address both objectives," Dunn said.
And, some new jobs were created in early summer in DCNR's state forestlands and state parks when the department joined Labor & Industry and Student Conservation Association officials in launching the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. The summer program, to be expanded, offered paid work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who completed recreation and conservation projects.
Unveiled in mid-summer as a solid example of what the Governor's Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management and Efficiency (GO-TIME) is seeking, the Bureau of State Parks' cost-saving, online park reservation was hailed by state official and campers alike. And, it is reflected in a marked increase in park visitation.
"The new reservation system now utilized by the Bureau of State Parks is a great example of smart savings," said Sharon Ward, director of the Governor's Office of Transformation, Innovation, Management & Efficiency. "In short, it delivers both lower costs and better service to Pennsylvanians."
Other 2016 achievements included:
State Forest Planning: DCNR's Bureau of Forestry held 12 public meetings and weighed more than 4,000 comments before issuing its State Forest Resource Management Plan. "This careful and deliberate approach to management outlined in the plan will help protect and sustain the forest's ecological, social and economic benefits now and for the future," said Dunn.
Kinzua Bridge State Park Shines: A landmark addition to that showplace of state parks and forests that is the Pennsylvania Wilds was officially dedicated in mid-September when Dunn and others welcomed visitors to a new visitor center and park office at Kinzua Bridge State Park, McKean County.
Wildfire Fighters Kept Busy: DCNR continued to see its highly trained wildfire fighting teams called upon to battle wildfires in other states. Almost 200 volunteers were deployed for two weeks to fight wildfires in 11 state; 25 of them as recently as last month, answering calls from North Carolina and Georgia.
Best in the Nation: Pennsylvania earned top national honors for its work to transform outdoor recreation planning and get residents to spend more time outdoors. The state's five-year Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan was honored as the best in the nation by to the National Park Service and the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals -- the first state to have won the award twice with consecutive plan updates.
Tribute to Gifford Pinchot: Formerly Lackawanna State Forest District, the northeastern district was renamed in honor of Gifford Pinchot, conservation pioneer and creator of forestry practices that continue to shape and benefit Pennsylvania's state forests to this day.
Mira Lloyd Dock Honors: The former Penn Nursery and Wood Shop in Centre Count was renamed the Mira Lloyd Dock Resource Conservation Center in honor of the late woman environmentalist, botanist and civic activist who championed reforestation and anti-pollution measures.
Shikellamy State Park Dedication: The park's point and observation area on the Susquehanna River in Northumberland County, was officially named "Kury Point." A dedication event honored former state Rep. Franklin Kury, who authored the section of Pennsylvania's Constitution popularly known as the Environmental Rights Amendment.
Laurel Hill State Park Addition: Working in cooperation with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Bureau of State Parks accepted more than 189 acres, a pond, lodge and outbuildings as an addition to Laurel Hill State Park, Somerset County.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources