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At 67, after a lifetime of hard work, Ernie Lauer could be spending his days on his front porch. But that's not his style.

He pumps iron and gets in a lot of fishing, and about once a month you can find him and longtime buddy Sterling "Bud" Bankert down at Mill Creek in Springettsbury Township, serving as volunteer marine biologists for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Lauer and Bankert and about 30 other York area seniors are part of the Pennsylvania Senior Environment Corps, a statewide program in which older citizens volunteer to monitor streams and creeks. The Yorktown Senior Center in York is the base for one of 10 Environmental Corps groups throughout the state. The idea has been so successful the department is looking to expand it, and it's even catching on in other countries.

DEP press secretary Chris Novak said the program started about two years ago as a joint venture between the DEP, the Department on Aging and a national coalition of volunteer groups called Environmental Alliance for Senior Involvement.

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