HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Harrisburg. Some of the highlights from today's meeting appear below.
FOUR ELECTRONIC DEVICES APPROVED FOR HUNTING
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that makes four additional electronic devices lawful to use while hunting.
Hunting while using the newly approved devices will not be legal until the changes are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, in approximately six to eight weeks. Once that happens, hunters will be able to use electronic decoys in hunting waterfowl; electronic dove decoys used solely for hunting doves; electronically heated scent or lure dispensers; and electronic devices that distribute ozone gas for scent-control purposes.
Electronic devices generally are prohibited for hunting use in Pennsylvania, but the Game Commission over the years has received requests to review several specific electronic devices, and has approved some of them for hunting use. As part of the review process, the Game Commission evaluates to what degree a given device might negatively impact the principles of resource conservation, equal opportunity, fair chase and public safety.
In reviewing the devices that today were approved for hunting use, the Game Commission identified no negative impacts that would result from their use.
Other electronic devices that are permitted for use while hunting or trapping in Pennsylvania are:
Firearms that use an electronic impulse to initiate discharge of their ammunition
Electronic sound-amplification devices incorporated into hearing protection devices and completely contained within a hunter’s ear
Electronic devices used for locating dogs while training and hunting
Electronic illuminating devices affixed to the aft end of a bolt or arrow and used solely for locating or tracking a bolt or arrow after it is launched
Electronic crow decoys used solely for hunting crows
Electronic rangefinders, including handheld devices and those contained within a scope or archery sight, so long that it does not emit a beam
ENHANCED GAME-LANDS ACCESS SOUGHT FOR THOSE WITH MOBILITY ISSUES
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a host of improvements that would enhance public access to state game lands by persons with mobility challenges.
The proposal was developed through an extensive review of public access to game lands by Game Commission staff – a process that included opportunities for public comment and a series of meetings at which the public could learn about game-lands access and offer input.
Central to the proposal is the proposed creation of the Disabled Person Access Permit, which would allow mobility-challenged game-lands users to use ATVs, golf carts and other mobility devices on designated routes on game lands.
This permit would be free, and separate from the existing permit that allows disabled persons to hunt from motorized vehicles and ATVs. A wider variety of applicants might qualify for the new permit.
The new permit would be for operation of mobility devices on designated routes on game lands. Mobility devices would need to meet specific requirements to ensure the protection of game lands, while accommodating mobility-challenged hunters and trappers. Permit holders would not be allowed to possess loaded sporting arms while in or on a mobility device without obtaining an additional permit.
All ATVs or snowmobiles used as mobility devices would need to be registered with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and display a valid registration plate or decal. All mobility devices permitted by the Game Commission would be required to display a sticker issued by the commission. And all mobility devices would need to stick closely to designated routes.
With the permit, a hunter using a mobility device could traverse a maximum of 100 yards perpendicular to the designated route.
Meanwhile, the proposal establishes that hunters in wheelchairs are free to traverse anywhere on the game lands where pedestrian foot travel is authorized. The proposal also spells out that hunters in wheelchairs may use wheelchairs to locate and flush game, and that they may possess loaded sporting arms on or in wheelchairs, including when the wheelchair is in motion.
Manual or electric wheelchair users on game lands would not need a Disabled Person Access Permit.
The proposal will be brought back to the January meeting for a final vote.
AIR GUN, SEMIAUTOMATIC USE EXTENDED TO SPECIAL REGULATIONS AREAS
When the Pennsylvania Game Commission in April approved the use of semiautomatic rifles and air guns for hunting small game and furbearers, the provision could not be extended to the state’s Special Regulations Areas, which are covered under a separate section of the law.
But a measure adopted today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will allow hunters and trappers within Special Regulations Areas also to use semiautomatic rifles and air guns.
It will take approximately six to eight weeks for the changes to become official.
Only rimfire ammunition will be allowed when hunting or trapping with semiautomatic rifles in Special Regulations Areas.
Special Regulations Areas include all of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, and Ridley Creek and Tyler state parks during special controlled hunts.
Hunters within Special Regulations Areas must follow different guidelines than in other parts of the state, and have been limited to using manually operated rimfire rifles, shotguns, muzzleloading long guns and archery equipment.
The amendment adds air rifles to that list, and lifts the requirement that rimfire rifles be manually operated.
Air guns will need to be between .177 and .22 caliber when used within Special Regulations Areas to hunt small game, woodchucks or furbearers.
Semiautomatic rifles would need to be .22 caliber or less to hunt small game, woodchucks or furbearers within Special Regulations Areas.
Regulatory changes become official upon their publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
NO-COST 1,500-ACRE ACQUISITION TO OFFSET IMPACTS ON BATS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved the no-cost acquisition of 1,536 acres adjoining or near State Game Lands 302 in Richhill Township, Greene County.
The land is being offered by Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC and partners and presented through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as mitigation requirements for impacts on wildlife, specifically the federal- and state-endangered Indiana bat and the federal-endangered northern long-eared bat.
In addition to conveying the acreage, Consol and its partners would make a one-time $580,000 payment to the Game Commission to create a stewardship fund for perpetual management of the property. Consol also has agreed to remove structures from the property.
All but 300 acres of the property adjoins State Game Lands 302. The 300 acres, as well as the 1,236 acres that adjoin the game lands, are forested with mixed hardwoods, and interspersed with grass fields, hayfields and reverting old fields.
The acreage contains known Indiana bat roosting and foraging areas.
The land will be managed in perpetuity in accordance with the USFWS Indiana bat management plan.
BOARD BIDS FAREWELL TO PUTNAM, SCHLEMMER
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today bid farewell to Commissioners Robert W. Schlemmer and David J. Putnam, both of whom have served the board since 2009.
Schlemmer, of Export, and Putnam, of Centre Hall, both have long histories with the Game Commission and are past presidents of the board.
Schlemmer who represents Region 2, comprising Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington and Westmoreland counties, served as president in 2013 and 2014.
Putnam, who represents Region 3, comprising Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties, served as president in 2015 and 2016.
Schlemmer, a deputy wildlife conservation officer since 1974, said it’s been an honor and privilege to serve the agency as commissioner, working alongside a dedicated and passionate staff. Schlemmer said he was proud to serve as part of this team.
“We, together, made some changes and made some good things happen,” Schlemmer said.
Putnam, whose roots in the Game Commission trace back to his father John Putnam, a graduate of the 5th Class of the Ross Leffler School of Conservation, is a self-employed biologist who retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007.
Putnam also referenced the team that works together to accomplish the Game Commission’s goals.
“Everybody within this agency is passionate about what they do,” Putnam said. “It’s unmatched by any other agency.”
Board President Brian H. Hoover and agency Executive Director Bryan Burhans presented Putnam and Schlemmer with wildlife art prints in appreciation of the more than eight years they served the board, and the commissioners each were greeted with a round of applause.
FALCONRY PERMIT EXAM SCHEDULE COULD BE EXPANDED
Those seeking falconry permits in Pennsylvania might have additional time in which they can take their tests.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow prospective falconers to schedule and complete their required exams at any time throughout the year.
As it is now, all exams must be scheduled and completed between Jan. 1 and June 30.
The exams are administered by Game Commission staff at regional offices. If the change is adopted, all falconry applicants will need to schedule their exams in advance.
The board said expanding the exam schedule would provide additional opportunity for falconry applicants.
DONATIONS ADD TO GAME LANDS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved two land donations that together will add more than 54 acres to the state game lands system.
The board approved the acquisition of more than 35 acres adjoining State Game Lands 311 in Benezette Township, Elk County, and nearly 19 acres west of State Game Lands 187 in Dorrance Township, Luzerne County.
The Elk County property is offered to the Game Commission by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. It consists of mixed hardwoods and conifers interspersed with grassy fields. All timber on the acreage is reserved until Aug. 31, 2018.
The property contains a house and outbuilding suitable for equipment storage, and provides prime elk-viewing opportunity.
The 18.8-acre Luzerne County property is offered by Benjamin Ostrowski. The property is landlocked, but is forested with a variety of hardwoods, and an understory that contains blueberry and huckleberry.
LAND ACQUISITION TO IMPROVE GAME-LANDS ACCESS
More than 58 acres to be acquired through a right-of-way license agreement will improve public access to State Game Lands 223 in Dunkard Township, Greene County, by extending the game lands south to Bald Hill Church Road and Dunkard Creek.
The land is being offered by Dana Mining Company of Pennsylvania LLC in exchange for a right-of-way license that grants Dana the privilege of constructing, operating, maintaining and removing a waterline across State Game Lands 223. In addition to conveying the land, Dana will pay the Game Commission an annual license fee, as well as the agency’s standard habitat, surface and timber damages.
The license authorizes approximately 1,725 feet of 11-inch diameter waterline and associated communications lines to be covered with a minimum of 3 feet of soil in a 10-foot-wide right-of-way.
The land Dana is conveying to the Game Commission mostly is forested with hardwoods in pole-timber stage, but contains some larger, marketable timber. There’s a dense shrub understory throughout, several streams and an approximate 1-acre reverting old field.
UPCOMING MEETINGS ANNOUNCED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners next will meet on Monday, Dec. 18 at a working group meeting held at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters.
The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be held at the Harrisburg headquarters on Sunday, Jan. 28, Monday, Jan. 29 and Tuesday, Jan. 30.
MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541
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