US Army Corps of Engineers
Baltimore District

Natural Resource Management

The primary objectives for wildlife management are to maintain or enhance habitat components such as conifer cover, grasslands, riparian buffers, early successional forest, and preservation of large blocks of quality contiguous forest. 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, grasslands, riparian buffers, early successional forest, and preservation of large blocks of quality contiguous forest. Staff members actively manage for invasive species, nuisance wildlife, deer, and threatened and endangered species.
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Raystown Lake 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. m
  • 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.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake announces the enrollment of project lands in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), with two DMAP units established for the 2019-2020 hunting season.   

DMAP Unit 2831 includes all Corps-owned land to the west of the lake, covering a total of 14,496 acres. 307 DMAP coupons have been allocated for DMAP Unit 2831. DMAP Unit 2832 includes all Corps-owned land to the east of the lake, covering a total of 5,144 acres. 205 DMAP coupons have been allocated for DMAP Unit 2832. The additional tags are intended to assist in matching deer populations to the carrying capacity of the land on which they exist.

DMAP coupons for both units will be available from any license issuing agent or the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop web page at www.theoutdoorshop.state.pa.us. The Corps will NOT be distributing coupons to walk-in or mail-in applicants. Each DMAP coupon allows for the harvesting of one antlerless deer during the 2019-2020 hunting season. Maps of DMAP Units 2831 and 2832 will be available at the Raystown Lake Ranger Office or can be printed directly from http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/Dams-Recreation/Raystown/.

Raystown Lake completes annual deer browse surveys. These surveys cover all project lands and determine deer impact on regeneration. Results from these surveys assist in determining if/where DMAP is needed and what the allocation rate of DMAP coupons should be.

The results of the 2018 browse survey are as follows: in DMAP Unit 2831, the dominant desirable tree species showed an average light browse level. In DMAP Unit 2832, the dominant desirable tree species showed an average light to moderate browse level.

Despite the 2018 findings, certain areas showed signs of moderate to high browsing pressure.  The majority of these peak browse areas coincided with recent forest management areas.

The results of the 2019 browse survey are as follows: in DMAP Unit 2831, the dominant desirable tree species showed an average moderate browse level. In DMAP Unit 2832, the dominant desirable tree species showed an average light to moderate browse level.

Similarly to the 2018 findings, the 2019 survey showed certain areas with high browsing pressure that coincided with recent forest management

Raystown will continue to conduct annual browse surveys to closely monitor deer populations and their effect on forest regeneration to determine DMAP applicability for the future. 

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. The compartments are defined by land use and with definitive boundaries such as roadways, right-of-ways, and waterways.   Having defined management compartments allow the development of management recommendations which consider local conditions, but meet the overarching management goals for Raystown.

Forest Management

To date, Raystown has managed 3,498 acres using commercial forest management. This management has resulted in the harvesting of an estimated 6.1M board feet of sawtimber and 102K tons of pulpwood. Revenues from the sale of these wood products now exceed $1.88M. This revenue is returned to Raystown and used to further enhance the environmental stewardship program (i.e. gravel road maintenance, forest pest suppression, invasive species herbicide, prescribed fire, food plot program).

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 lease, with the remainder being managed via Raystown staff. The habitat fields managed by Raystown staff are planted solely for wildlife benefit. A myriad of crops are planted to include clover, alfalfa, corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, sunflower, turnip, soybean and brassica. New plantings in the spring of 2019 included 23.5 acres of corn, 4.2 acres of clover, 9.5 acres of summer mix (oats, buckwheat, soybean, sunflower) and 40.8 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 and hard pine 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

Raystown Lake is a destination sport fishery with numerous public boat ramps, marinas, and bait and tackle shops. The lake provides a quality fishery for both the boater and the bank angler. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) manages the fisheries of Raystown Lake in accordance with a memorandum of understanding. The PFBC began stocking the lake in 1973 in an effort to establish a “two story” fishery unique to the Northeast. Generally, a stocking management plan is developed every four to five years based on the PFBC census of fish populations.

The management objectives are to develop a warm water fishery for bass, muskellunge, panfish, and striped bass, and a cold water fishery for trout species, notably brown and lake trout. The existing reservoir supports a recreational cold and warm water fishery. The species sought by angles include tiger muskellunge, chain pickerel, largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, striped bass, yellow perch, channel catfish, and brown bullhead. Pumpkinseed, carp, white sucker, rock bass, and several species of minnows are also present.

Currently, populations of lake trout, striped bass, walleye, muskellunge, and tiger muskellunge are maintained and supplemented through routine stockings of juvenile fish by the PFBC. Annually, the PFBC stocks over 100,000 striped bass fingerlings and fry. In addition to PFBC stockings, the Pennsylvania Striped Bass Association (PSBA) also stock juvenile Striped Bass in Raystown Lake to bolster populations of that species. Other sportfish populations such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, white crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, brown bullhead, and channel catfish are sustained through natural reproduction. With the exception of all species of trout and rainbow smelt, which are managed with special regulations, Raystown Lake’s fisheries are managed with Commonwealth Inland Waters angling regulations.

The Raystown Lake Cooperative Striped Bass Nursery was created in 2015 in cooperation between the PFBC, PSBA, and USACE. This striper nursery is located at the maintenance compound area. The nursery’s purpose is to spawn and raise striped bass to be released into Raystown Lake.  The goal of this project is to aid the striped bass stocking efforts of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to ensure a sustainable population of the species within the Raystown Lake fishery. The nursery is a challenge partnership agreement with USACE.

In conjunction with PFBC, many sportsmen groups have volunteered hours, time, and money for the construction of fish attractors throughout the reservoir. According to the PFBC, the fisheries habitat management plan from 2016 report concluded that artificial habitats (refuge, spawning, nesting and nursery) are designed to be effective, long lasting structures that allow fish to accomplish their daily and seasonal tasks with greater efficiency. Some artificial habitats have dual purposes and may also provide increased opportunities for anglers to catch and harvest fish. They also provide increased surface areas for algae attachment, aquatic insect colonization and other food organisms which may increase fishery production. The program has been an ongoing partnership between the USACE and the PAFBC since 1990.

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