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Natural Resource Management

The primary objectives for wildlife management are to maintain or enhance habitat components such as conifer cover, grassland habitat, riparian buffers, and early successional forest that have been declining since the Raystown Lake Project was developed while providing large blocks of quality contiguous diverse forest for a variety of wildlife across the landscape. Staff members actively manage for invasive species, nuisance wildlife, deer, and threatened and endangered species.

 

Wildlife Management

The primary objectives for wildlife management are to maintain or enhance habitat components such as conifer cover, grassland habitat, riparian buffers and early successional forest that have been declining since the project was developed while providing large blocks of quality contiguous diverse forest for a variety of wildlife across the landscape. Staff member actively provide management solutions for invasive species, nuisance wildlife, deer management, and threatened and endangered species.
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During the 2017-2018 season Raystown enrolled two DMAP Units containing 19,640 acres. All of the 620 DMAP coupons issued for these Units were purchased. Of the 501 DMAP tags purchased, 112 were filled by harvesting an antlerless deer.

 

Raystown Lake announces that it’ll continue use of the DMAP for the 2018-2019 seasons. DMAP Unit 2831 includes all Corps owned land to the west of the Lake. Unit 2831 covers a total of 14,496 acres. A total of 307 coupons have been allocated to this Unit for the 2018-2019 hunting season. DMAP Unit 2832 includes all Corps owned land to the east of the Lake. Unit 2832 covers a total of 5,144 acres. A total of 206 coupons have been allocated to this Unit for the 2018-2019 hunting season.

DMAP coupons for both Units will be available from any license issuing agent or the Pennsylvania Game Commission Outdoor Shop web page at www.theoutdoorshop.state.pa.us.  The Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake will NOT be distributing any coupons for walk-in or mail-in applicants.  Each DMAP coupon allows for the harvesting of one antlerless deer during the 2018-2019 hunting season.

The staff at Raystown are hopeful that these additional tags will assist in achieving our overall goal of matching deer populations to the carrying capacity of the land base on which they exist.


The Raystown Lake Project completed Project wide forward looking infrared (FLIR) deer surveys from October 31, 2016 – January 29, 2017. The FLIR surveys covered all federally owned land at Raystown and were broken down into three surveys; pre, during, and post firearms seasons.

Before looking at the FLIR results it is important to realize that FLIR is simply a snapshot of deer numbers. One can infer deer populations based on the survey results, but more importantly the survey shows you how deer are impacted by hunting pressure.

Results from the 2017 post-season FLIR survey show an average of 16.32 deer per square mile which is a 3.31 deer per square mile increase from the 2010 post-season FLIR survey that showed 13.61 deer per square mile.

As a case study in regards to hunting pressure let’s compare Forest Compartments 8 and 12.

  • Compartment 8:
    •  No hunting area
    •  Pre-Season: 13.21 deer/sq. mi
    •  In-Season: 47.17 deer/sq. mi
    •  Post-Season: 22.64 deer/sq. mi 
  • Compartment 12:
    • Open to public hunting
    • Gate opened for public access
    • Pre-Season: 10.07 deer/square mile
    • In-Season: 4.68 deer/square mile
    • Post-Season: 12.95 deer/square mile

Based on these results you can see that deer are very responsive to hunting pressure. Deer will leave areas where hunting pressure is high and move to areas where hunting pressure is less. This may sound like common sense, but also explains why hunters may indicate they see no deer during hunting seasons; however, deer cause damage to vegetation the rest of the year.

In summary, it is important to note that the amount of deer in an area does not determine the amount of deer impact. High deer numbers may be supported in good habitat without any impact while less than five deer per square mile may be devastating to poor habitat. The Corps will continue to actively manage deer populations and will be proactive in making management adjustments.

Forest and Habitat Management

In terms of forest and habitat management, the objectives are focused on the diversification within the major vegetation types to include different age classes of forest such as a higher diversity of forest composition and providing a diversity of field types to include herbaceous openings, cropland and grasslands.  

The Raystown Lake Project is divided into 18 management compartments. These compartments are approximately 800-1,400 acres in size and are defined by land use and defined boundaries such as roadways, right-of-ways and waterways.  The defined management compartments allow the development of management recommendations which consider local conditions, but meet the overall objectives of the landscape goals.

Forest Management

To date, Raystown has managed 3,433 acres using commercial forest management. This management has resulted in the harvesting of an estimated 5.75M board feet of sawtimber and 101K tons of pulpwood. Revenues from the sale of these wood products now exceed $1.6M. This revenue is returned to the Project and used to further enhance Raystown’s environmental stewardship programs (gravel road maintenance, forest pest suppression, invasive species herbicide, prescribed fire, food plot program, etc.).

Field Management

In terms of field management, natural resource staff members manage a total of approximately 200 acres.  Of that 122 acres are managed under agricultural leases, with the remainder being managed via project staff. The habitat fields managed by Raystown staff are planted solely for wildlife benefit. Crops planted include, but are not limited to, clover, alfalfa, corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, sunflower, turnip, and brassica. Staff management in the spring of 2018 shall include 22.8 acres of corn, 2.9 acres of clover mix, 5.5 acres of summer mix and 46.8 acres of mowing.

Prescribed Fire

Over the last century, the United States has had a policy of fire suppression due to the risks fires pose to humans and communities.  Unfortunately, this policy has led to unhealthy overly-dense forest conditions, the loss of unique fire-dependent ecosystems, and a degraded wildlife habitat. Without prescribed fire, forests are less resilient, creating the potential for catastrophic wildfire events.

A prescribed fire is the safe use of fire under specific conditions to achieve land management objectives. Prescribed fire in Pennsylvania is authorized by the PA Prescribed Burning Practices Act (Act 17 of 2009). All prescribed fires conducted in PA must be performed in accordance with this Act and the PA Prescribed Fire Standards as developed by the PA Bureau of Forestry and the PA Fire Council, Training and Standards Committee.

Raystown has embraced the use of prescribed fire as a land management tool. Prescribed fire will be used for fuel load reduction, control of invasive species, grassland management and promotion of fire dependent species (i.e. oak species). In compliance with Raystown’s forest and wildlife management programs, Raystown plans to execute approximately 100 acres of prescribed fire annually or 200 acres biannually.

Fisheries Management

The 8,300-acre conservation pool is the largest lake contained wholly within the state of Pennsylvania.  Raystown Lake is a highland reservoir that enjoys a two‑story fishery providing both cold-water and warm-water game species.  Overall, the lake is oligotrophic in nature, with the embayments and shallower areas being more eutrophic than the rest of the lake.

The objective of the fisheries management program continues to be the establishment of an integrated fisheries management plan that includes fish structure placement, fish stocking, and fisheries population research.  

Of particular emphasis is shoreline erosion.  Both vegetative management practices and mechanical practices are employed to minimize erosion. These practices may include the use of gabions and rip rap, live stakes, live fascines, or branch packings and are to reduce soil run-off, preserve the maximum water storage capacity of the lake for flood control, maintain water quality, preserve and enhance the lake's fishery, and enhance the recreational opportunities through good water quality.

Partners

To accomplish mission objectives in the Natural Resource Management Program, multiple key partnerships at both the National and local level have been established. They include non-profit groups, local interest, other agencies and the public to assist the Raystown Lake staff in the development and management of the natural resource program. 

  • National Wild Turkey Federation 
  • Ruffed Grouse Society
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • American Chestnut Foundation
  • The Friends of Raystown Lake