We hope you enjoy this story slide show of the 2019 McCune Road Dirt and Gravel Road project in Canal Township, Venango County.
In the spring of 2014, a fish kill event at Kahle Lake in Venango and Clarion Counties prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct an evaluation of the watershed. DEP found that excessive nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen were present in the watershed. They determined that these excessive nutrients were most likely to have caused the fish kill event and that agricultural practices were the most likely contributors to the pollution.
The Pennsylvania DEP Regional Agriculture Watershed Assessment Program Initiative provided funding for watershed impairment improvements in one county in each of the DEP regions in 2014. DEP awarded funding to the Venango Conservation District through this program. The district was tasked with four aspects to correct this pollution problem. The district assessed and identified sources and potential sources of pollution in the Kahle Lake watershed. The district also worked to create corrective plans. The district worked to develop designs and engineering of Best Management Practices on agricultural operations and, through this funding were able to construct practices to reduce the nutrient overloading problem.
The Venango Conservation District was able to accomplish the scope of work outlined by DEP for the initiative. The district was then able to identify three additional agriculturally impaired watersheds in Venango County which could benefit from the same practices. Five agricultural operations were able to take advantage of the funding to construct Best Management Practices to reduce pollution.
This project was a success in large part because the district was able to coordinate with several organizations like DEP, the US Department of Ag Natural Resource Conservation Service, PennDOT, Team Ag and all the operation owners. All of these folks worked together to accomplish the scope of work for this project.
Best Management Practices(BMPs) can be used as a term to describe a type of water pollution control or treatment. Some practitioners also use the term BMP to describe both structural or engineered control devices and systems to treat polluted stormwater, as well as operational or procedural practices. For example, minimizing the use of chemical fertilizers or were and when these chemicals are applied.
In agriculture there are numerous BMPs that can be implemented on any operation or farm to control manure and sediment, stormwater, or chemicals. These BMPs first act as control devices to keep the clean water clean and capture and treat polluted water or divert and treat polluted water before it reaches our waterways. As rain water runs off our streets, parking lots, lawns, and other surfaces, it picks up pet waste, pesticides, fertilizer, oil, and other contaminants. If the water doesn’t evaporate or soak into the ground, it flushes straight into local creeks and rivers adversely affecting water quality and aquatic life.
Currents of runoff scour stream banks, destabilize the natural contours of the streams altering their depths. Eroded dirt from the runoff blocks sunlight from reaching underwater vegetation, and smother the aquatic homes of other life. As grasses and marine life die, fish and other creatures that rely on them are jeopardized. The runoff also carries nutrients that spur algae blooms, leading to low oxygen in the water resulting in fish kills.
The Venango Conservation District works with landowners who are involved in an agricultural practice with technical assistance or financially through finding grant funds. We received a grant for $18,000 to work with a landowner on installing BMPs on their farm. The funding was DEP Growing Greener distributed though the Northwest Commission. The BMPs designed to be installed will limit the amount of nutrient laden runoff leaving the animal area and divert clean stormwater around the premises limiting the pollutants entering a creek in Northern Venango County. Most creeks and open water in Venango County contain significant portions that are open to public fishing and are stocked with trout. Runoff from this farm not only effects the local watershed but then drains into the next watershed of Oil Creek which is within Oil Creek State Park.
*** If you are a landowner interested in any further information on how you can get technical assistance,***
questions answered or to inquire about potential grant opportunities,
call the Venango Conservation District or
email our Agriculture Technician at
So, three years ago, my teenaged daughter decided she should carve out her own signature in our yard by starting a pollinator garden. She cleared an area and even planted some flowering shrubs. Then she went off to college and that was the end of that.
She had the best intentions. There has been so much buzz (pun intended) in the last few years about pollinator decline. She wanted to take some action and I am proud of her for that.
Meanwhile, back at the weed patch – I mean “pollinator garden” – it is now on me to shape this project into something. I asked myself, what do I need to do in this garden to support pollinators successfully. After some research, I noted that pollinators are more than just butterflies. Bats, birds, beetles, bees AND butterflies and even the wind can all be utilized by nature to pollinate plants. I can’t provide for ALL those species – that thought is a little overwhelming.
I’ve decided to focus on bees. I’m not sure what I can do in my backyard to have an affect on the varroa mite infestations which spread hive diseases. I did learn that a loss of habitat is a factor in bee decline, along with exposure to pesticides. I don’t use pesticides in my yard, so I’m already a step in the right direction. Now for habitat considerations. Researches are suggesting that homeowners utilize wildflowers in a selection of their lawn, instead of just growing grass.
Bee habitat is my goal. I don’t want to tend hives in my backyard, but I can provide support for solitary bees, which are pollinator bees that are already in my neighborhood. I figure native plants are a good choice. I live in a wooded area, so there are plenty of places for solitary bees to nest. My garden will be about providing food. Bee Balm, sunflowers like Black Eyed Susans, and Cone Flowers are native flowering plants with a nice range of bright native color to attract pollinators like my neighborhood bees. These types of plants will also attract other pollinator species as a bonus. I also need to consider what native plants bloom at different times of the year in order to keep the food supply available for the growing year.
The bottom line is that, to be successful, I’ll need to put a lot of planning into a garden to benefit bees. It may take a couple of years to fiddle around with plants and placements. It looks like I’ll need to submit a follow-up or two to report my pollinator garden progress. Meanwhile, check out this really great brochure from the Pollinator Partnership: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/simpletruthbrochure.pdf
Pennsylvania’s Governor ordered those of us in Venango County to stay at home effective at the end of the day March 20th. As a result, all of us at the Venango Conservation District are working from home. The office has been posted as closed and anyone needing to reach us is directed to call the office (814-676-2832) and leave a message or to contact us via email (email@example.com).
WE ARE STILL WORKING FOR NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN VENANGO COUNTY
The success of keeping the wheels of work running for the VCD is the tireless work of Lance Bowes our District Manager. He sees to it that the answering machine messages are directed, that the snail mail is distributed and that staff are accomplishing the work that the VCD does. Lance is coordinating tele-meetings including our regularly scheduled board meetings for April and May.
Staff is now permitted to perform some work in the field beginning May 11th. Staff will be following protocol modeled after the Governor's recommendation for social distancing and virus safety.
Even with our restrictions, staff has been busy with position development, permit reviews and with applications to funding sources for future projects in Venango County. We are all very much looking forward to getting back to the office and the field after this crisis. For now, we’re still getting good things done for Venango County – just from home.
April 22, 1970 – the day of the vernal equinox. I was only a toddler then, but growing up, I didn’t have much knowledge of Earth Day as an annual event. Growing up in the 70’s in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania, my world was a little sheltered as my neighborhood was small. I carved out regular play areas in the woods near my house, I rode my bike regularly through a nearby State Park and I splashed around in a neighborhood fishing hole, unaware of the problems of pollution.
Thank goodness someone was paying attention. All across the US, people were organizing Earth Day events to bring about awareness and change for the benefit of our planet. Some of those early efforts provided kids like me with Natural Science education such as articles in the school’s Weekly Reader publication. I remember a show on Saturday morning called the Big Blue Marble. Even the weeping Native American commercial stuck with me as a kid. My parents were an influence on my Earth appreciation. We all enjoyed trail walks in the woods, and campfire cook-outs. Composting and keeping an organic vegetable garden became a way of life at home, but I never put those outreach efforts and parental attitudes together with Earth Day until I was an adult.
In 1970, the Venango Conservation District was not even a decade old. The district concentrated on soil health and working with local farmers to achieve soil conservation. In the 1970’s the district grew to working with invasive species concerns and eventually with water quality concerns in Venango County, including environmental education and outreach.
Some consider the 1970’s the Environmental Decade”. After all, a number of laws came to effect in that decade. The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, The Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, The Surface Mining Control and Reclamations Act were all put into law in the 1970’s. In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. That was a lot of change for ten years.
Meanwhile, Earth Day has grown into a global celebration. In 1990 a Global Earth Day was organized. More than 200 million people globally participated in Earth Day events that year. In 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement was signed on Earth Day. In recent years, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day events making Earth Day the biggest civic event in the world. Popular Earth Day events might include river clean-up events, tree plantings and outdoor educational activities.
This year, in 2020, as Earth Day is upon us, we are dealing with a major lifestyle change in social distancing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gathering together for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day will have to wait, but that does not mean that I can’t do my thing at home to celebrate Earth Day. Weather permitting, I will take a walk outside, continue work on my pollinator garden and tune in for a nature documentary or two. I can access a list of things I can do at home at www.eathday.org/eath-day-at-home/. I hope you join me in your own at-home Earth Day activities. Let’s keep the Earth appreciation outreach and attitudes going.
Human activities can have an impact on this planet, both beneficial and… not so much. Over the years, humans have learned some ways to get important work done without impacting the environment in ways that are harmful. Conservation Districts were created to help with just that purpose, to help folks get things done in Pennsylvania without a big negative impact on the environment.
In Venango County, there are 112 rivers and streams. These waterways are very important as they are home to many aquatic species. These waterways have also served humans well in our history - as drinking water sources, for agricultural uses and for transportation uses as well. These days our waterways see lots of action serving as places of recreation in the county. We’re very proud of our waterways in Venango County and we want to make sure that we’re taking good care not to pollute them. We therefore, employ practices that can reduce pollution.
The Venango Conservation District concerns ourselves with helping folks reduce non point source pollution, but what is that? Usually, when we think of water pollution we may picture a pipe dumping waste right into a stream, to be carried off. That pollution is coming from one place – the pipe. That is point source pollution. Non point source pollution is the opposite. Non point source pollution is pollution that comes from multiple places and from a wide area.
Sometimes it can be a little tricky to identify where non point source pollution might be coming from. Sometimes we can see pollution is happening but we might have to really investigate to find where those areas of pollution are coming from. Some sources of non point source pollution might be from sediment run off from agricultural, construction, or timbering operations. Some sources might be nutrient and chemical applications to plants and soil. Some sources might be from impervious areas where petroleum products or trash might be laying for storm water to pickup.
So, what non point source pollution is – pollution that comes from many different sources. The good news is – the Venango Conservation District is here to help find ways to reduce pollution affecting our very valuable waterways. We can help with technical assistance, with education, and even sometimes with finding funding sources to construct practices that reduce non point source pollution.
The Venango Conservation District will once again be holding an educational workshop providing all kinds of information about getting Dirt Gravel and Low Volume program projects on the ground. The Dirt Gravel and Low Volume Roads program is managed by conservation district across Pennsylvania providing administration, education and funding to install practices on rural roads that reduce non-point source pollution to the waterways of Pennsylvania.
The 2019 Venango workshop will include classroom sessions where participants will learn about bonding roads, prevailing wage requirements, changes to the PA One Call laws, Erosion & Sediment Control plans, stormwater management and much more. This year we're adding site visits to the day. We'll be visiting three sites this year where participants can view some projects on dirt gravel and low volume roads that are working well to reduce pollution.
Registration is required to attend the workshop and lunch and transportation to the site visits will be provided. Call our office at 814-676-2832 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register or to find out more. The deadline to register will be Friday April 5th.
The Venango Conservation District is once again holding our annual tree seedling and groundcover sale through March 23td 2018. Species available this year will be Norway Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, Eastern White Pine, Canadian Hemlock, Red Oak, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Silky Dogwood, and Red Chokeberry. Myrtle clumps and wildflower seed mix are also offered. Get more information in the links below.
Working Trees for Pollinators
The Venango Conservation District is happy to announce that they will be offering the sponsorship of five Venango County agricultural producers to attend the upcoming 2018 Western PA Annual Grazing Conference, located in Clarion, PA on March 21st and 22nd, 2018. This is a two day event with the option to attend one or both days. Sponsorship of this event covers a one day registration cost of $45, which includes continental breakfast and hot buffet lunch. Awarded applicants have the choice of which day would they would like to attend. However, if the recipient wishes to attend the second day, they will be responsible for any additional registrations cost.
The 2018 Western PA Annual Grazing Conference includes many speakers and presentations, including Teddy Gentry, bass player for the legendary country music group Alabama. Teddy Gentry will talk about efficiency of cow calf production and how grazing management has benefited his own beef cattle operation. Greg Judy, author of two grazing management books and owner/operator of a beef grazing operation in Clark, Missouri, will also talk about his successes of leasing and owning grazing land. The event brochure, including the agenda and more details can be found on the Venango Conservation District website www.venangocd.org.
In order to be an eligible recipient of this sponsorship, interested persons must be an agricultural producer and reside in Venango County. He or she must also complete a “Sponsorship Eligibility Form” and submit it to the Venango Conservation District by Thursday, March 1, 2018 by mailing to 1793 Cherrytree Road Franklin, PA 16323 (Attn: Becky Deeter) or email email@example.com. The “Sponsorship Eligibility Form” will be reviewed by the Venango Conservation District for appropriate eligibility, and available openings will then be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Awarded applicants will be notified by Monday, March 5th.
If you have any questions, need a copy of the “Sponsorship Eligibility Form”, or would like more information regarding the event, please contact Becky at the Venango Conservation District at 814-676-2832, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.venangocd.org.
Western PA Annual Grazing Conference Brochure
VCD Sponsorship Eligibility Form
Polk Field Day Event
Welcome New Staff Member
Venango Conservation District