Annual Tour of Pondsin Mahoning Valley
Numerous homeowners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties will open their yards to the public during the fifth annual Tour of Decorative Ponds.
The tour will be held in Mahoning County on July 16-17 and in Trumbull County July 23-24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The tour is a drive-it-yourself, with $10 tour guidebooks available from the Mahoning SWCD office or Colonial Gardens.
For more information, call Mahoning SWCD at (330) 533-2231 or visit the Web site www.mahoningswcd.org.
Mahoning plate available
The Mahoning River Muskie license plate is now available.
It can be purchased online at www.oplates.com or at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Proceeds are designated to help restore the Mahoning River and its watershed.
Expanding harborat Middle Bass Island
COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources filed permit applications with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to expand and improve the harbor basin at Middle Bass Island State Park in Lake Erie.
The permits, mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, must be secured before construction can begin on the Middle Bass Island State Park Phase I marina and campground development project. As part of the application process, ODNR outlined plans for an expanded harbor with 360 boat slips, a boat launch ramp, a redesigned entrance from the lake side and other recreational amenities. About $11.4 million in state and federal money will fund the proposed project, which will be constructed in several phases through 2009.
"Our proposal for the harbor at Middle Bass Island will expand recreational opportunities and benefit the area's unique environment at the same time," said Dan West, Ohio State Parks chief. "It will also play an important public safety role for boaters in Lake Erie's western basin, where the need for transient docking has never been greater."
Key to the proposed redesign of the harbor is a dredging effort to remove the harbor's center peninsula and "round" the overall configuration of the facility. Fill from the dredging will be used to improve and expand the park's existing temporary campground, located to the west of the harbor, and enhance a wetland and hiking trail on the north side. Moving the harbor's lakeside entrance to the north of its current location is aimed at improving both water quality and fishing in the area. The redesigned harbor will also feature a sand beach, located just south of the new entrance, as well as fishing access.
Of utmost concern in the proposed construction project is protecting the endangered Lake Erie water snake.
"Our construction plans take special care to avoid disturbing the wintering and breeding grounds of this rare species, and the project will enhance the snake's habitat in the marina area," West added.
As part of the proposed mitigation plan, ODNR plans to restore 39 acres of high quality wetland and the fisheries in the Middle Harbor area of nearby East Harbor State Park in Ottawa County.
If all permit applications are approved, construction on the harbor and campground development project will begin late in 2007 and conclude in time for the 2009 recreational season. The Middle Bass Island State Park harbor will be closed to boating during that period.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting in late August to accept citizen comment on the permit applications.
New area providesmore opportunities
ATHENS -- More than 4,000 acres in southern Ohio will be available for public hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing thanks to a five-year agreement between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy.
"Habitat conservation is a big part of the Division of Wildlife's long-term strategic plan," said Steven A. Gray, chief of the Division of Wildlife.
The Ironton Forest Wildlife Area, as it will be known, features a diverse landscape excellent for wildlife habitat, including high ridges, deep hollows notched by streams and forested wetlands, according to the Division of Wildlife, which plans to dedicate the area this fall. The area boasts healthy white-tailed deer and wild turkey populations and provides important habitat to species of special interest, including migratory songbirds, bobcats and black bear.
Located predominantly in Lawrence County, the Ironton Forest Wildlife Area is accessible from State Route 93.
Commission to hostwaterfowl briefing
HARRISBURG -- Representatives of Pennsylvania waterfowl organizations, individual sportsmen and the public are invited to attend a briefing Aug. 5 on the status of Atlantic Flyway waterfowl populations and proposed preliminary federal frameworks for the 2005-06 hunting seasons.
The briefing will begin at 1 p.m. in the Game Commission's Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area Administration Building, 9552 Hartstown Road, Hartstown, Crawford County.
In addition to reviewing frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for upcoming waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, Game Commission staff will provide updates on current and planned research and management programs, as well as past hunting results.
Public comments will be accepted at the meeting by sending a letter to: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797; or via e-mail (ra-waterfowlcomments@state.pa.us).

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