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Outdoors notebook: Elk visitor center deal reached

| Sunday, July 20, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

Pennsylvania's Elk Country Visitor Center is going to be around for a while.

The Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which runs the facility, and Gov. Tom Corbett signed a 35-year agreement to continue its operation.

The center, which opened in 2010, sits on 245 acres owned by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in Benezette, Elk County. The Alliance operates it using its own funding.

With the agreement in place, the Alliance will construct an outdoor classroom to accommodate more educational programs and special events.

About 350,000 tourists visit the facility annually, according to state figures.

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Pennsylvania Game Commission teamed up recently to purchase 81 acres of prime elk habitat in Benezette.

Known as Woodring Farm, the property now becomes part of state game land 311. Future plans for the site include parking areas and walking trails to an overlook that will offer the public an opportunity to view Pennsylvania's wild elk herd.

Forum planned

A lot of groups have a stake in fishing: the wildlife agencies that sells licenses, the people who make rods and reels, the people who make lures, and those who sell bait, to name a few.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is looking to pull them all together.

The agency, using a model from other states, hope to coordinate a “fishing business and industry forum” this fall. According to executive director John Arway, the commission wants to get a handle on which businesses pay into the federal tax collected on the sale of fishing equipment that makes its way back to Pennsylvania. The goal is to get as many of them together as possible to figure out ways to promote fishing in the commonwealth.

Retiring director

Cal DuBrock, a 32-year veteran of the Game Commission and director of its bureau of wildlife management, is retiring Aug. 1.

The agency has seen a lot of changes in that time. DuBrock said when he first joined the bureau in 1987, it contained 12 biologists, and only one who worked on diversity, or non-game species.

The bureau now has eight to 10 diversity biologists alone, along with others working on deer, elk, black bears, grouse, turkeys and more, he said.

“It's been a terrific, I think, opportunity for the agency to expand our basis of science,” DuBrock said.

Hot spots

A number of state park lakes have been identified as top family fishing destinations.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation asked anglers and boaters to vote for their favorite fishing holes as part of a sweepstakes. The top 100 waters were ranked.

Presque Isle State Park in Erie County finished 10th nationally, the highest of any Pennsylvania waterway. Moraine State Park in Butler County finished 15th, and Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County 18th.

Three other state parks in eastern and central Pennsylvania also made the list.

Quail conference

Pennsylvania is not the only state looking to restore bobwhite quail.

The experts from around the country who make up the National Bobwhite Technical Committee will meet July 29 to Aug. 1 in Iowa to discuss, in large part, a voluntary program that “lays out a specific, step-by-step road map” for identifying “focal areas” where quail recovery might occur.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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