welcome to the CFC’s news & information database

In addition to current events and timely articles, this “news” page is meant to serve as an archive of information on all things forest — flora & fauna posts, camping & hiking tips, etc.  Whatever you’d like to learn or remember, please browse using the tags, or search.  

Bats & Moths & Synchronous Fireflies!

Bats Moths & Fireflies CFC 2020

UPDATE:  Please bear with us 🙂 – the event is now limited to 25 attendees, per PA guidelines on COVID-19 – – RSVP is req’d via 814-744-8407 or cookforestsp@pa.gov, & please bring your masks & respect social distancing ** Please DISREGARD Facebook attendance indicators, as we’re not using that system **
Our apologies, but as this is the first event in the park following its reopening, and as several state entities are cooperating in its production, we just got the word that we need to collect registrations for the event. We appreciate your understanding!

Wielding microphones and sheets and wearing headlamps, bat biologist Amber Nolder and entomologist Tim Tomon will survey bats and moths, educating onlookers as they monitor this aspect of forest health. We’ll begin with some presentations, move into the field, and learn about these important Cook Forest residents.  Here’s a recap & gallery from last year’s stellar bat & moth event – but, this year, it’s

Bats & Moths – and then Synchronous Fireflies!

Our annual program has happily added a (hopeful) appearance by the rare and elusive synchronous fireflies!  Once the Photinus carolinus & friends have emerged (probably around 10 pm), we’ll walk up nearby Tom’s Run Road a short distance into the darkness, and enjoy their silent light show. Allegheny National Forest & Cook Forest State Park are among the only places to see these little fellows in America – they’re so famous in the Smoky Mountains there’s a lottery to see them!

Since the primary threats to fireflies are habitat loss and light pollution, the “lightning bug” portion of the program will be pitch black, so they can communicate.  The dirt road is somewhat uneven – if you have a headlamp or flashlight with a red lamp function, please bring it along for the trek in toward the firefly swamp.

Friday, 19 June 2020 – 8:30 pm – 10:30 pm >>
add event to your google calendar

We’ll be at Shelter #2 off Forest Road in Cook Forest, approx. coordinates: 41.346609, -79.218915, and the google maps code is 8QWJ+JC Cooksburg, Pennsylvania.

This event is free – no registration required. Please bring a coronavirus mask, a light (headlamps with a red or green night-vision filter are best) and a refillable water bottle – we’ll have bat & moth eyemasks for the kids to color.  NB re CORONAVIRUS: By attending, participants assume responsibility for any and all risk due to possible exposure to COVID-19. Please DO NOT attend if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 2 weeks.

This annual event is a collaboration of the Cook Forest Conservancy, the PA Game Commission, the PA Bureau of Forestry, and the DCNR of Cook Forest State Park

Birdwatching Basics

Birdwatching Resource List - Cook Forest Conservancy - Birding Essentials

Coronavirus cabin fever?  Lots of house-bound folks are getting into birdwatching lately – a fun & easy outdoor springtime activity, even better when you’ve got a couple of guide books and apps, and a pair of decent binoculars.  While we at the CFC are beginning birders ourselves, here’s a list of resources that we find helpful.  Please note, some of these are Amazon affiliate links, so the CFC receives a small commission if they lead to purchases  – at no additional cost to you.  

Birding Apps: 

  • Audubon Bird Guide – amazingly comprehensive.  Download the Eastern data file to access multiple search indexes, high-res images, and bird call audio when you’re offline.  
  • Merlin Bird ID – identify that bird by key, or by photo!  Another great free birdwatching app  
  • eBird – Cornell Lab’s quick & simple app interface for tracking sightings 

Birdwatching Books:

Online Birding Resources:

Items that Help Bring the Birds to You:

  • binoculars – probably the only investment a beginning birder should make.  Audubon has a comprehensive guide to binoculars at various price points here, and from this list I bought the Celestron Nature DX 8×42 and have been really pleased with their brightness and clarity.  I also have the 10×42 model of the Nature DX, and it’s great, too – they magnify a bit more, and are a bit harder to target and hold steady.
  • bird feeder, tube style – this model is also available at Tractor Supply and Wal-Mart, has lasted several years, and attracts chickadees, tufted titmice, goldfinches, sparrows, nuthatches, woodpeckers up to red-bellied size, cardinals, and bluejays.  Grackles are almost too large for it, and they dislike a hood (e.g. a 2′ or so diameter circle slid over the hanger) or roof add-on, if you’re having problems with them.
  • bird feeder, double suet cage – a good sturdy design for attracting woodpeckers and nuthatches, and the flat roof doubles as a platform for feeding oranges, etc. 
  • hummingbird feeder – this model is easier to clean than the bottle types.  Hummingbird feeders should be boiled or washed with a weak bleach solution between fillings, so they don’t harbor mold & bacteria.  Here’s the best recipe for hummingbird nectar – only use plain white sugar and water, in a one to four ratio.

Happy birding!

Plant Propagation Resources

Plant Propagation Resources - Cook Forest Conservancy & DCNR

Save money and multiply your favorite heirloom plants for your yard and to give to friends — hardwood cutting techniques are simple and inexpensive to do at home, once you’re familiar with the procedures.  Ty Ryen, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, compiled a list of recommended resources:

Books (these are Amazon affiliate links, so the CFC receives a small commission if they lead to purchases  – at no additional cost to you):

Online Resources:

Supplies:  You can usually use things you have on hand – just disinfect all potting vessels (pots, nursery flats, etc) with hot water and dish soap, or a 10% bleach solution, to protect cuttings & seedlings from disease.  Make sure your pruners are very sharp, and disinfect these as well between cuttings – the ARS, HP-130DX 7-Inch Ideal Light Pruner is excellent, and should be about $30.  The CFC also uses the 7″ ARS HP-VS7XZ Heavy-Duty Hand Pruner, but this is likely overkill for propagation cutting. Buy or mix a high-quality planting medium, ideally also sterile.  >> Click this link for a PDF listing recipes for recommended soil and soilless mixes for seedlings and cuttings <<

We’re sorry to have had to cancel the March 2020 propagation seminar in Cook Forest, but are hoping to reschedule for the autumn, when conditions are optimal for propagation success.  If you have questions, please contact Ty Ryen, Service Forester for Forest & Venango Counties, at 814-677-8076, or (omit the spaces in the email address): tryen @ pa.gov

COVID-19 Cancellations in Cook Forest State Park

DCNR PA State Park COVID-19 Closure
All PA State Parks CLOSED due to COVID-19 - DCNR Notice Issued 03-16-2020

EVENT CANCELLATIONS & CLOSURES in Cook Forest State Park due to Coronavirus / COVID-19 – as of 16 March 2020:

[A]ll public educational programs, special events such as races and festivals, and teacher and other trainings in state parks and state forests are cancelled until April 30. This includes programming by Friends groups and the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and other partners. This also includes weddings, family reunions, fundraisers, trail rides or any other type of event that required an agreement or reservation.  — DCNR 

Click this image for further updates, posting to the Cook Forest Conservancy facebook page:

CANCELLED IN COOK FOREST:

  • 14 March – Plant Propagation with a DCNR Service Forester
  • 21 March – Friends’ hike of Indian Trail
  • 28 March – CFSP Eagle Watch
  • 12 April – Easter Sunrise Service
  • 24 April – Earth Day 50
  • 25 April – Meet your DCNR Service Forester hike
  • 25 April – Friends’ adopt-a-highway cleanup of Forest Road

Presently, trails remain open for disbursed hiking.  The park office and all park facilities are CLOSED.  Please take sensible precautions. 

Cathedral film at Clarion University

A short documentary on how & why the State Park is protecting the Hemlock trees of Cook Forest from the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) – and what it would mean if we lost that battle.  Hemlock is a keystone species, irreplaceable.  Eastern hemlock trees filter sediment and prevent stream bank erosion, and its evergreen boughs are integral for keeping streams cold enough for trout – hemlock streams average ten degrees cooler than waterways without hemlock. 

The film is 22 minutes long, will be followed by a short Q & A session.

At 7 pm, all are welcome to attend a general meeting of the Iron Furnace Chapter #288 of Trout Unlimited, featuring speaker Ryan Borcz, DCNR park manager for Cook Forest & Clear Creek State Parks, discussing an in-progress stream habitat improvement the chapter is orchestrating in Clear Creek.

Both events are in Room 120 of the Grunenwald Science and Technology Center (STC), Clarion University of Pennsylvania – GPS Address: 909 E Wood St. Clarion PA, 16214. Free parking is available slightly downhill & across the street.

Hosted by the Cook Forest Conservancy, Iron Furnace Chapter #288 of Trout Unlimited, & Clarion University – film courtesy of Wild Excellence Films.

Plant Propagation

2020-03-14 Plant Propagation Seminar
Many of the most popular decorative (and practical) landscape plants—shrubs, vines, and fruits—can be propagated by the simple technique of rooting a piece of a “parent” plant. Improve your gardening skills while saving money, by learning simple plant propagation techniques.  One  source plant – already in your yard or your neighbor’s – can produce hundreds of identical offspring, at little to no cost!

Clone your Favorite Native Plants:

Join Ty Ryen, DCNR Bureau of Forestry Service Forester and Certified Arborist, for this FREE indoor event – a hands-on demonstration with hardwood cuttings, plus tips on timing your cuttings and mixing soil:

Saturday, 14 March 2020 – 11 am – 1 pm >> add event to your google calendar

This free event is open to all.  The DCNR Cook Forest State Park office has generously donated their conference room for the gardening seminar – the address is 100 PA-36, Cooksburg, PA 16217, and the google maps code is 8QMR+59 Cooksburg, Farmington Township, PA.

Now approved for 2 Continuing Education Units for ISA Certified Arborists!

Still Free!  RSVP to save your seat – space is limited – via Facebook, or via

Forest Resilience in a Changing Climate

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

So far for most Pennsylvanians, Winter 2020 has been a non-event. Depending on where you live, temperatures are considerably above normal and snowfall below normal. Individual perspectives might lead to interpreting these two statistics as either positive or negative. No snow equals no shoveling. Warm temperatures equal more time outside. Or, no snow equals no sledding or skiing. Warm temperatures equal more ticks.

Thinking more broadly than personal values or needs; Is this winter’s weather a harbinger of a future driven by climate change? If so, how will Pennsylvania’s forests respond?

PA Forest Stewards - Jim Finley on Climate Change 2020

For sure, weather is fickle. Mark Twain purportedly said, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” It seems something is happening to the climate and, whether you attribute it to human activities or just unexplainable variation, Pennsylvania’s forests are facing challenges.

Forest Resilience in a Changing Climate

Aldo Leopold, a 20th century mid-western conservationist, and author of The Sand County Almanac and many other writings about our relationships to the land and natural systems, was a keen observer of change that others seemed to miss. He wrote, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on the land is quite invisible to laymen . . . in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” Simply, he was saying that the more one knows about ecology, the more apparent change is and that many will neither see nor believe that it matters. Many resource professionals as well as laypeople are seeing change in many areas of our environment. As Leopold suggests though, many of these changes and linkages may not be obvious to less than “keen observers.”

Disturbance and change are part of natural systems. Resilience is the ability of a system to recover after disturbance, which determines its ability to persist and function over time. The degree and extent of a disturbance logically affects the capacity of a natural system to recover. For example, in a typical winter, forests often experience damage from wind and ice. Most commonly this is local damage and a few trees experience broken limbs and some trees tip over. The ability of the forest to function across a larger landscape continues unabated – some trees benefit from increased light and growing space from the loss of their neighbors – the forest almost ignores the event.

Lead Poisoning in Birds

Cook Forest Conservancy - Lead Poisoning in Eagles from Ammunition

Bald and golden eagles prefer fish, but are opportunistic foragers that scavenge when practical. In most areas, eagles have access to food sources with expended lead bullets – field-shot pest species, offal piles, non-recovered game, and weakened, contaminated live prey. 

Deer pits across the Game Commission’s State Game Lands provide a regular source of food for scavenging eagles.  Hunting season falls in autumn and winter, when scavenging for food becomes more important – and lead poisoning victim numbers spike.

Between 2006 and 2016, lead poisoning was found in one-third of 228 eagles from across Pennsylvania – 30% had detectable levels of heavy metals in their liver.  While the specimens died variously from trauma by car, train, and gunshot (also electrocution and infection), the examined animals mostly accumulated the lead levels as a result of scavenging.  Lead poisoning destroys the nervous system.  If it doesn’t kill the bird outright, the lead poisoning renders it too weak and disoriented to either hunt for food, or protect itself from predators and threats.

One simple way to reduce lead toxicity in eagles and other wildlife is to use non-lead ammunition.

Both performance and cost of non-lead ammunition is comparable to lead counterparts. The PA Game Commission advocates the use of non-lead ammunition to hunters, and it’s safer for people, too, since the lead can’t fragment or leach into game meat. Please ask your local supplier to stock non-lead ammo 🙂

Centre Wildlife Care - tube-feeding lead poisoned eagle
Centre Wildlife Care volunteers tube-feeding a Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning

From Centre Wildlife Care:

Since 2013, when we got our blood lead machine, all of the bald eagles that we have taken in have had some level of lead in their blood. Most have needed chelation therapy to remove the lead from the system, plus antibiotics, tube feeding, and months of rehabilitation before they could be released. Some were too sick to save from the lead toxicity/ trauma and died.

We have also seen lead poisoning in hawks, eagles, vultures, crows, gulls, ducks, geese, swans, loons and grebes.

For more information, and to find non-lead ammo, contact: 

Woods not Lawns for Water Quality

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

It’s January and perhaps your thoughts are already turning toward summer activities. For many Pennsylvanians, mowing and maintaining lawns is either a larger or small part of their summer routine. Lawns, as we know them, are part of American culture and history(1). An Internet search on lawn maintenance suggests creating the perfect lawn is a major industry very dependent on labor and chemical inputs.

Annually we spread millions of tons of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer around our homes to have the envy of the neighborhood – a perfectly green lawn(2). Interestingly, as interest in organic foods increases, there is a disconnect about using despised chemicals where our children and pets spend quality time. At the same time, water quality suffers as excess nutrients from lawns and agricultural fields are one of the largest sources of non-point pollutants impacting water quality in our streams, rivers, lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Penn State’s Center for Turfgrass Science estimates that Pennsylvanians maintain about 2 million acres of grass (about 7% of the state’s surface area), and 1.4 million acres of this are home lawns (about 5% of the state). About two-thirds of Pennsylvania is in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contains an estimated one million acres of lawns. 

Pennsylvania has set a goal of converting 10,000 acres of these lawns to woodlands or meadows. This seems like a small target and maybe you can help by learning how to convert lawns to woodlands and meadows by participating in a Penn State Extension Winter Workshop series entitled “The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.” This webinar-based education program will use a full-color, 108-page publication by the same title to guide you through the process of developing and implementing projects to enhance your land’s natural resources. Register by Saturday, 18 January 2020 via the link above, or call 877-345-0691.

A principle focus of the workshop series is to learn about what happens to the rain and snow that falls on your land. There is a very strong link between land use and our water resources. Buildings, pavement, lawns, fields – human changes to the landscape – have affected natural water movement and water cycles Water now moves across the land and into streams in different ways and carries with it nutrients and pollutants.

Interestingly, most lawns are very poor at absorbing water – in fact, they are only a little better than pavement! Your lawn, because of grass root structure and soil compaction, can only absorb about 2 inches of water per hour compared to a forest that can handle 14 inches or more in the same time frame. In the ideal scenario, water does not move across the land – instead, it should move into the soil.

Service Foresters

PA DCNR service forester program for landowners

DCNR service foresters – at no cost to the landowner – will walk your property, and give sound advice on the following:

  • Woodland review & improvement 
  • Tree planting
  • Control of forest pests & invasives
  • Wildlife – habitat & management
  • Woodland recreation
  • Educational & cost-share programs
  • Forest management 
  • Timber harvest 
  • Riparian & water quality practices 

Under the Cooperative Forest Management Program of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, a Service Forester will assist you in understanding and planning the care and management of your woodland – a service to help you gain the maximum in benefits and enjoyment from this resource acreage.  While they can’t mark or sell timber, and don’t compete with private consulting foresters, they provide an educated, disinterested opinion and help you progress to the next step of managing your woodlot wisely and sustainably. 

To connect with your county’s service forester, contact: 

Clarion, Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence & Mercer counties: 

Clear Creek Forest District 8
158 South Second Avenue
Clarion, PA 16214
(814) 226-1901
fd08@state.pa.us

Forest, Venango, Warren, Erie, & Crawford counties:

Cornplanter Forest District 14
323 North State Street
Warren, PA 16365
(814) 723-0262
fd14@state.pa.us

Simplified Trespass Posting in PA

PA Trespass Law Update - purple blaze paint

A new law simplifies some of the confusion & cost of posting Pennsylvania property as private and off-limits to both hunters and general trespassers. Rather than posting plastic or metal signs, which deteriorate and can be unsightly as well as expensive, landowners can now paint border trees with purple paint. It also eliminates the debate over whether such signs must be signed to be effective (they do not, but it apparently once was a requirement).

To comply, the purple stripes must be:

  • vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide
  • 3 to 5 feet off the ground
  • readily visible to a person approaching the property, and
  • no more than 100 feet apart

The law goes into effect following the winter 2019-20 hunting seasons, and applies everywhere in PA, except in Allegheny County and Philadelphia.

CFSPbridges on Giving Tuesday

Facebook is waiving all donation fees, and matching all donations on #givingtuesday! This 3 December 2019, all funds raised for the CFSPbridges campaign will be doubled!  

You can help us by running a fundraiser on your facebook page, and sharing it with your friends and family – here’s how:

raise funds on Facebook for the CFC

Here are links to useful pages:

Thanks for your support! 

Penn’s Parks for All – DCNR Plan

Please take a few moments to review the DCNR’s draft “Penn’s Parks for All” report which features recommendations for managing Pennsylvania state parks for the future, based on public comments gathered the past two years.  The report acknowledges that DCNR is “operating 121 parks with decreasing resources,” while visitation pressure increases, facilities age, and the forests themselves are beset by invasives, disease, and encroachment.

There will be a meeting for Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks on 5 December 2019, 6 pm at the Cook Forest State Park Office – all are welcome and encouraged to attend – share your concerns, priorities, and questions for the future of our beautiful, wild spaces, locally and state-wide.  

DCNR needs "more than $500 million due to the appropriated budget for state parks not keeping up with inflation, and due to a reduction in staff, requiring higher costs for contracted labor.
The condition of state park facilities is deteriorating, with some facilities being shuttered, and some recreation activities no longer available — while demand for park use is higher than ever before."

This heavily-used bridge across Tom's Run was closed in the summer of 2019, and requires replacement - cost estimated at $100,000 per bridge. This is one of six bridges slated for closure - several are along the North Country Trail.

 According to a Penn State report,  Pennsylvania’s state parks support 12,630 jobs (part-time and full-time), and contribute $400 million in labor income, and $1.15 billion in sales annually.  For every $1 invested in state parks from the state’s General Fund, $12.41 is returned to Pennsylvania’s economy.  Yet only 0.16% of the state’s General Fund budget goes to state parks.

It’s not only trails, campgrounds, and pavilions that need funding – the forests themselves are under assault from multiple threats that can’t be handled passively.  The parks face “declining forest health from invasive plants and animals, declining plant and animal diversity, and fragmentation impacts from roads, trails,” and utilities.  DCNR needs funds to acquire inholdings and boundary properties, to to implement “projects that will mitigate the effects of climate change and that address habitat resiliency, riparian buffers, and lake and stream restoration.”

Survey respondents were generally in favor of all these projects – land acquisition, water quality improvement, habitat protection – and “the vast majority agreed or strongly agreed (87%) that visitors to state parks should expect a quiet, natural, and/or wild experience.”  Report recommendations also include the establishment of a night sky management program, expansion of educational programs on sustainable and leave no trace practices, and outreach to middle and high school students to create the next generation of stewards of the state park system.

To accomplish this, DCNR will need to meet another of its goals – “ensur[ing] that conservation funding (e.g., the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund) is used for stewardship purposes to repair and improve park resources.”  To keep our parks healthy and fully functioning, DCNR will need your support, too – in making public lands a priority for legislators.

This report is only the draft – comments will be accepted until 31 December 2019.  Please attend a meeting, or submit comments online.

Some Litter Is Necessary

Penn State Forest Stewards series article – written by Jim Finley, Professor Emeritus, Forest Resources Management, Center for Private Forests at Penn State.

Well once again, Pennsylvania’s forests are a mess – full of litter. Following the annual spectacular display of colors, fallen leaves, twigs, and branches “litter-ly” despoil our forest floors with layers of brown discarded leaves. What a mess!

2019-11 PAFS article Jim Finley on leaf litter

Depending on your awareness of litter’s value and your aesthetic sensibilities it can result in different appreciation levels. If you are a gardener, you would welcome, collect, compost, and hoard tree leaves. If your taste leans toward green grass lawns, you may abhor fallen leaves. Either way, you will likely gather them up; however, there are some who want to leave them in situ and mow them into increasingly smaller pieces to foster quicker decay hoping they will benefit that lawn.

Forests full of fallen leaves are a gift trees give to themselves. No one rakes or mulches them; nonetheless, they do slowly disappear. Estimates are that a mature hardwood forests produce an estimated 2,000 and 3,000 pounds per acre of litter annually. While most of this (about 70%) is leaves, it also contains twigs and branches, which may be partially decomposed prior to falling. It is amazing that through natural decomposition processes, tons of leaves contribute to forest vitality and health in so many ways.

 

Funding Shortfalls in Cook Forest State Park

the first bridge to close in CFSP

While visitation is increasing, state funding of the park system continues to dwindle, and the impacts are being felt here in Cook Forest State Park.

One of the busiest of our steel bridges over Tom’s Run closed earlier this year, with five more slated to follow – which requires trail re-routing away from some of the forest’s most lovely locations. Playgrounds are being removed, and picnic tables are turning into nurse logs. 

This article printed in the Oil City Derrick details the issues affecting our park, which hosts nearly 500,000 visitors annually, which produces $11 million dollars in economic activity in the area.  Please read the full account here – and then urge your legislators to support our beloved state parks, and restore the funding to them:  https://www.thederrick.com/free/cook-forest-facilities-are-being-closed/article_76a74e40-d173-11e9-98fc-d75dcc79ddd4.html

If the webpage link ever doesn’t work, a PDF version is available here:

2019-09-06 Cook Forest facilities are being closed _ thederrick