State announces significant investment in D&L Trail development project

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn this week announced a significant state investment in new grant funding to support the development of the D&L Trail in the Lehigh Valley at an event at Kimmett’s Lock in Allentown.

“Expanding the D&L Trail helps tremendously with DCNR’s goal to increase access to trails for all Pennsylvanians and close trail gaps,” Dunn said. “The Lehigh Valley is a heavily-populated area where we see more and more people calling for outdoor recreation opportunities. We expect to see increased activity on this critical multi-use trail that connects communities in the region. Completing the D&L Trail in the Lehigh Valley is a priority for the agency.”

Dunn added that, in concert with the D&L and Sen. Pat Browne, the agency is committing $3 million total to close trail gaps in Catasauqua, Hanover Township, and Allentown. The funds will be matched by $2 million in funding Sen. Browne secured through the 2022-23 state budget to close significant sections of trail gaps along the eastern side of the Lehigh River. Once the sections are completed, the D&L will have 140 miles of continuous open trail.

DCNR is also committing $2 million to match funds from Lehigh County to help acquire land for future trail development. Once completed, the 165-mile trail will connect Wilkes-Barre to Bristol, making it the longest multi-use trail in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is home to some of our nation’s most outstanding outdoor recreational areas,” Browne said. “This state investment in the crown jewel of our region’s trail system will complete a vital corridor on the D&L Trail, and finally close the trail gap through the Lehigh Valley. I am proud to work with Secretary Dunn to invest in the D&L and ensure that they have the resources necessary to close this critical gap.”

In addition to the state and county investment, this trail expansion has consistent support from the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (DLNHC), which preserves the historic pathway that carried coal and iron from Wilkes-Barre to Bristol to fuel America’s Industrial Revolution. The DLNHC advocates for the trail and the key community connection to health, environment, history and economic development it provides.

“This is a monumental announcement that quite literally forges the path to connect D&L Trail from Mountaintop in Luzerne County to Bristol in Bucks County, bringing it through the heart of Allentown,” DLNHC Executive Director Claire Sadler said. “Our work is impossible without the support of essential partners whose efforts and expertise help create these vital connections throughout the corridor.”

In early September, the Wolf Administration announced a historic $90 million investment to improve recreation and community revitalization across Pennsylvania through grants. A special fall grant application opportunity closed on Oct. 27 and among other things will focus on helping under-served communities, closing trail gaps, supporting an invigorated focus on the outdoor recreation sector, and planting trees along streams and in communities.

The D&L Trail spans multiple regions in the state, including the Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape, Pocono Forest and Waters Conservation Landscape, Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Landscape, Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 12,000 miles of trails and DCNR supports trail projects across the commonwealth as a part of its goal to have a trail within 10 minutes of every resident.

For more information on the fall grant round or to apply, visit the DCNR Grants Customer Service Portal.

Expanded Elite Series field will

feature 104 anglers in 2023

After a record-breaking 2022 Elite Series season that awarded eight Century Belts, crowned four first-time champions and garnered over 18.5 million views on FOX and the FOX Sports channels, B.A.S.S. announced the new expanded field for the 2023 Elite Series.

Next year, 104 anglers will compete for an Elite Series purse of over $6.9 million. Joining the ranks of the most prominent circuit in sport-fishing are 12 qualifiers from the hotly contested St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing, the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation champion and legendary Bassmaster Classic champion and two-time Angler of the Year Larry Nixon.

“I can’t wait for the 2023 season to start and think the schedule sets up really well for big catches, big drama and big excitement,” said the Elite Series Tournament Director Lisa Talmadge. “The Elite Series field is absolutely stacked, and fans are going to love following their favorite anglers as well as meeting this talented crop of rookies. And the new guys in the field have such broad appeal to those who love bass fishing, from a true icon of the sport in former Classic and AOY champion Larry Nixon to Cole Sands, who won a College Series National Championship just two years ago.”

With the exception of four anglers who retired, the entire 2022 Elite roster is returning next year. This list of returning anglers includes 2022 Bassmaster Classic champion Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., who also claimed a blue trophy on Chickamauga Lake last season. Idaho pro Brandon Palaniuk took Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year honors — his second time to earn the coveted title — while Jay Przekurat of Stevens Point, Wis., earned a Century Belt with all smallmouth — a feat never before accomplished — to claim a victory on the St. Lawrence River en route to winning Falcon Rods Rookie of the Year.

Also in the field is Jonathan Kelley of Old Forge.

They will be joined by an accomplished rookie class that includes two international anglers — Kyoya Fujita of Japan and Cooper Gallant of Canada — who earned their spots via the Northern and Southern Opens respectively. Also earning a spot in the Elites via the Northern Opens is Alex Wetherell of Middletown, Conn., who won the 2010 Junior Bassmaster World Championship. Bryant Smith of Roseville, Calif., and Joey Cifuentes III of Clinton, Ark., both qualified through the Southern Opens. Kyle Norsetter of Cottage Grove, Wis., and Logan Latuso of Gonzales, La., who has twice been one spot away from realizing his Elite dream, secured their berths via the Central Opens. David Gaston of Sylacauga, Ala., Sands of Calhoun, Tenn., and two-time NPFL tour winner John Soukup of Sapulpa, Okla., qualified via the overall points standings.

Will Davis Jr. of Sylacauga, Ala., won last week’s TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Pickwick Lake and has also been extended an Elite Series invitation. Part of his “Nation’s Best” prize package includes the use of a fully rigged boat and $16,000 toward his entry fees.

Along with Nixon, who is joining the field via a Legends exemption, there are also two former Elite Series anglers who requalified for the tour through the Opens Series points standings.

Keith Poche of Pike Road, Ala., won the Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year title to earn his invitation to rejoin the Elites. He’ll be joined by Central Opens points standings winner Bradley Hallman of Edmond, Okla., who found success with FLW after leaving the Elite Series in 2011.

The 2023 Elite Series season kicks off on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Feb. 16. From there the tournament trail will wind through seven states as anglers battle each other — and big bass — for cash and prizes and attempt to qualify for the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.

Each tournament will begin with the full field of anglers on Days 1 and 2 before the field is cut to 50 for the semifinal round on Day 3. Only the Top 10 remaining anglers will fish the final day of each event with a $100,000 first-place prize on the line.

Forest Service, Trout Unlimited launch

$40M watershed restoration initiative

The Biden-Harris Administration announced this week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service will provide up to $40 million to Trout Unlimited as part of a five-year agreement to improve watersheds on national forests and grasslands — home to many of America’s most important trout and salmon species.

Projects include clean-up of abandoned mines and removing barriers to improve fish passage, as well as stream habitat improvements.

Made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this five-year National Watershed and Aquatic Restoration Initiative aims to increase the pace and scale of watershed restoration on national forests and grasslands, with priority given to projects that use local employees and contractors to improve water quality in under-served communities and on Tribal lands.

“Our agreement with Trout Unlimited continues our joint success as stewards of national forests and grasslands,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Our partnership is not just about cleaning a stream or increasing fish population. It’s life sustaining work that is as vital to aquatic species as it is to people and communities. When our natural resources are healthy, we are healthy as a nation and as individuals.”

“It is heartening to see the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s resources being put to good use,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “This agreement builds on a long and productive partnership between the Forest Service and Trout Unlimited. Together over the years, we have already restored more than 400 miles of important fish habitat, reconnected more than 700 miles of habitat by removing barriers to fish migration, and improved hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest System lands. We are excited to continue and expand on this work over the coming years.”

More than 40% of trout streams in the U.S. flow through the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. In recent years, Trout Unlimited leveraged $20 million in Forest Service funding to carry out $62 million worth of projects, improving forest health, water quality and building key partnerships while supporting hundreds of family-wage jobs in rural communities.

Wild and native trout and salmon face countless challenges, including warming fueled by climate change. Trout Unlimited is identifying a national network of priority waters based on the best fisheries science and guided by its strategic plan. Over the coming years, Trout Unlimited will use the funding from this agreement to work alongside partners to protect and restore these waters to improve fish population diversity, resilience and productivity.

In its recent work, Trout Unlimited has worked with Tribes, agricultural landowners, mining companies, and government agencies to reconnect habitat and reduce flood risk on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin, restore native brook trout habitat on private lands around the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, restore streams in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho and clean up mines and restore streams in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska.

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