Habitat program in Pennsylvania

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is looking for a few good bass clubs.

Well ... actually, it's looking for more than a few. The PFBC needs partners to help with its Cooperative Habitat Improvement Program (CHIP), an ongoing habitat enhancement project for lakes and impoundments.

"We will get a few bass anglers to help out (as volunteers), but since 2006, the number of bass clubs participating has really fallen off," said Ben Page, PFBC's Lake Habitat Section Chief for the Division of Habitat Management.

"It seems like there's a real competition for time these days," he added. "But I'd like to get more of them involved."

Just as Eagle Scouts, lake associations, county conservation districts, state parks and others do now, participating bass clubs would serve as CHIP "cooperators," or local partners, providing funds, labor, materials and possibly even expertise.

"Some of those lake associations are very well run, they've often had experience, and they do a good job of drumming up volunteers," Page said.

A cooperating bass club can help with one of the 20 to 30 lake or reservoir projects that CHIP already conducts annually, or it can propose a new one. CHIP provides $3,000 on a 50-50 matching basis, while, depending on location, funds also are available from state parks and the Army Corps of Engineers. The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service occasionally assist as well, and Ohio helps with habitat work on Pymatuning, a border impoundment. 

"Some projects also get a large amount of grant money," the section chief said, adding that the Cambria County Conservation District, as a Friends of Reservoirs member, received a $30,000 grant to help with the Glendale Lake habitat project.

Although volunteers can help with both, CHIP projects are classified as "large scale" or "volunteer scale." More often than not, a five-year plan is developed for each.

"An average volunteer-scale fish habitat annual project may cost between $750 and $1,500," PFBC explained. "Large-scale projects are far more expensive, averaging $10,000 to $50,000, depending upon the size and structure."