Outdoors Notebook: Fracking's impact on habitat is discussed

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Whether you favor the jobs and money sure to come with hydraulic fracking, or dread potential environmental consequences, it's clear that to some degree wildlife habitat will be impacted. Hunters and anglers comprise an important stakeholder group as policies are developed to safely get the gas out of the ground.

At the Canonsburg Sportsman's Association March 5, Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited and the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation held a Sportsman's Mini-Summit to showcase fracking issues. Doug Dunkerely, a state Game Commission land manager, talked about the history of drilling, financial benefits, status of land reclamation and pending legislation, as well as what sportsmen and sportswomen can do to improve re-vegetation on their own lands.

Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia have no comprehensive statewide rules or monitoring programs to regulate how much water can be taken from streams, rivers, lakes and the ground for hydraulic fracturing, said Dunkerely, and facilities do not exist to adequately treat the huge volumes of wastewater involved. Hunters and anglers could be impacted in other ways, he said, including possible restrictions on land and water access.

Iced over

For the first time in 34 years, the Great Lakes were more than 90.5 percent covered in ice. In 1979, 94.7 percent of the lakes were covered, the largest ice cover recorded.

"This year we will pass that, because in the next few days it will be another 5 percent, easy," said Jia Wang, a research ice climatologist for the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich., said last week in an Associated Press report.

A key reason for the large ice cover is Lake Ontario, located at the eastern end of the Great Lakes chain. With warmer water temperatures from a slightly more temperate climate, the lake generally doesn't freeze. This winter, however, Ontario has nearly 50 percent ice cover, which is extremely unusual.

Lake Erie, more shallow on its western end, is ice covered. Anglers reported 18 to 19 inches in Presque Isle Bay.

License buttons

Return of the retro Pennsylvania fishing license button pins, approved by Fish and Boat in January, starts March 12. The blue buttons can be displayed instead of fishing licenses, but anglers must have their actual licenses in possession. Buttons cost $5 (in addition to license fees) and are available at Fish and Boat's Harrisburg headquarters, regional offices, Linesville State Fish Hatchery or online at www.fish.state.pa.us or www.GoneFishingPa.com.

Weekend workshops

L.L. Bean's annual Spring Fishing Weekend at Ross Park Mall includes free fly-casting clinics, introductory fly-fishing workshops, fly selection, fly fishing for smallmouths, where to fish in Western Pennsylvania and all-day kids' stuff. See a full schedule or register for free casting clinics at www.llbean.com or 412-318-1200.

Slide show

The International Angler fly shop in Robinson will host a free slide show on fly fishing in Alaska and Montana, 6:30 p.m. March 12, 412-788-8088.

Club news

• At the March 10 meeting of Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited, board member Briget Shields discusses Casting for Recovery, a group that helps women cope with breast cancer through fly fishing. Free, 7 p.m. Brentwood VFW on Route 51. 412-881-9934.

• Chad Hough, president of the Arrowhead chapter of Trout Unlimited, will talk about fly fishing in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee at the next meeting of the Tri-County Trout Club, 7 p.m. March 12, Burrell Lake Park, Lower Burrell. Non-members $3, kids under 12, free. 724-335-2679.

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