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Fort Indiantown Gap to Offer Free Guided Tours of Rare Regal Fritillary Butterfly Habitat

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2012-06-03 01:44:48     
dmva.state.pa.us

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 1, 2012 -- Visitors are invited to see the only population of rare Regal Fritillary butterflies in Pennsylvania on four days in June and July at Fort Indiantown Gap, near Annville, Lebanon County.

Free guided carpool tours will begin at 10 a.m. on June 30, July 1, 6, and 7. Those wishing to attend should arrive at least 30 minutes early to fill out necessary paperwork and attend a mandatory safety and orientation meeting. All tours will last approximately three hours, but attendees can leave earlier if needed.

The free tours, which have been offered for more than 10 years, allow the public to see this rare butterfly and its associated habitat on military training ranges, as well as many other natural spectacles on the 17,000-acre military post, which serves as the Pennsylvania National Guard's headquarters.

"The Regal Fritillary butterfly colony at Fort Indiantown Gap continues to thrive alongside military training equipment thanks to our dedicated wildlife staff," said Col. Samuel Hayes, commander of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Site. "These tours are popular for visitors of all ages because participants are able to see and learn about the butterfly in its natural habitat."

Participants should meet at the Fort Indiantown Gap Recreation Center in Building 13-190, located at the intersection of Asher Miner Road, Clement Avenue and Route 443 (GPS coordinates in decimal degrees: North 40.431, West 76.591).

Visitors are encouraged to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for a nature walk on well-maintained or mowed trails. No reservations are required and no rain dates will be scheduled.

The tours also will include information related to current efforts to restore native grassland habitat across Pennsylvania with the ultimate goal of returning the Regal Fritillary to areas where they formerly were found.

In addition to the Regal Fritillary, which is considered a federal species of concern, Fort Indiantown Gap is home to 99 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan priority species. It also provides a wide variety of habitats for 36 species of mammals, 143 breeding species of birds, 34 species of reptiles and amphibians, 25 species of fish, 792 species of plants, and many notable species of invertebrates including 85 species of butterflies and 237 species of moths. The installation also features 1,000 acres of scrub oak and pitch pine barrens and 3,000 acres of native grassland habitat – the largest in the state.

Fort Indiantown Gap is the only live-fire, maneuver military training facility in Pennsylvania. It balances one of the region's most ecologically diverse areas with a military mission that annually supports 19,000 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel and more than 130,000 other states' Guard, military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel each year.

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