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01/29/2019

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY'S COMMISSIONERS MEETING

FLUORESCENT ORANGE REQUIREMENTS COULD BE SIMPLIFIED

​The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would simplify requirements to wear fluorescent orange material while hunting.

There would be no changes to the requirements that apply in many seasons. And the use of orange will continue to be highly recommended for all seasons, whether required or not.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote, and any changes would be put in place for the 2019-20 license year to begin July 1.

The proposal would eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer or bear. This would eliminate all overlap periods when archery hunters are required to wear varying amounts of fluorescent orange while moving or post orange material while in a fixed position.

The proposal also would eliminate the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material.

All other seasons would continue with their existing fluorescent orange requirements.

Hunters in deer, bear, elk firearms seasons, small game season, and those hunting coyotes during daylight hours within open deer, bear or elk firearms seasons, would continue with the requirement to wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees. Woodchuck hunters would continue with the requirement to wear a solid fluorescent orange hat at all times. And hunters in seasons for crows, doves, waterfowl, post-Christmas flintlock deer, spring turkeys and furbearers (with the exception of coyotes as noted above) would continue without fluorescent orange requirements.

The requirement to post orange while deer, bear or elk hunting from an enclosed blind also would remain.

Commissioners said the changes are intended to clear up the complexity of existing fluorescent orange requirements, which each year result in a significant number of violations detected by State Game Wardens.

 

SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLES TO BE CONSIDERED FOR BIG-GAME HUNTING

With Pennsylvania in the stretch run of its first hunting season in which semiautomatic shotguns were permitted for big-game hunting, and semiautomatic rifles have been permitted for hunting small game and furbearers, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today announced it will entertain a proposal to allow semiautomatic rifles for big game in the 2019-20 license year.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is accepting public comment on the matter, which could be considered at the commissioners next quarterly meeting April 9. If voted upon and given preliminary approval in April, the measure could be considered for final adoption in July and put in place for the 2019-20 license year.

Written comments can be submitted by email to pgccomments@pa.gov up until the April meeting.

Like the proposal to move the opening day of the firearms deer season to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which was given preliminary approval on Tuesday, the proposal to expand opportunities to hunt with semiautomatic rifles seeks to provide for the changing demographics of license buyers and their needs.

 

TROUBLED SPECIES GIVEN ADDITIONAL PROTECTION

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that updates the state’s list of threatened and endangered species, providing three cave bat species additional protection by reclassifying them as state endangered species.

The update also upgrades the peregrine falcon’s status from endangered to threatened; upgrades the piping plover from extirpated to endangered, and lists the red knot – a federally threatened species – as a threatened species within Pennsylvania, as well.

The three cave bat species that have been given additional protection are the northern long-eared bat, tri-colored bat and little brown bat, all of which have been decimated by white-nose syndrome since it appeared in Pennsylvania in 2008,

The northern long-eared bat was listed as a federal threatened species in April 2015. In addition, tri-colored bats and little brown bats currently are being considered for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The updates adopted today were approved preliminarily in September.

Written public comments on the measure were accepted through December. Of the 33 comments submitted, none opposed any of the listings.

These listings historically have ensured the Game Commission and other resource agencies work with industry if projects could be affected by the presence of endangered or threatened species. All projects are screened for potential conflicts through a state environmental review, which has been in place since the early 1980s and now is called the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI).

PNDI was established to provide current, reliable, objective information to help inform environmental decisions and guide conservation work and land-use planning. Resource agencies continually update PNDI’s species records to ensure the best guidance and conservation possible.

Northern long-eared bats currently are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. If they become state listed, the Game Commission will continue to defer comments on potential impacts to northern long-eared bats to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). No additional coordination with the Game Commission will occur.

Since tri-colored and little brown bats currently are not federally listed, projects within 300 meters of known summer roost locations and winter hibernacula used by these bats will require Game Commission consultation.

“Sites that held these bats prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome, but not since, won’t affect projects,” said Dan Brauning, Wildlife Diversity Division supervisor. “That distinction alone immediately reduces the potential for conflicts when you consider bats have lost upward of 97 percent of their historic populations in Pennsylvania.”

For perspective, there are about 30 hibernacula and 120 maternity sites known to support little brown and tri-colored bats that will be added to PNDI as a result of the state-endangered listing.

Prior to white nose syndrome appearing in 2008 in Pennsylvania, there were about 250 bat hibernacula and 300 maternity sites listed in PNDI, according to Greg Turner, Game Commission Endangered and Nongame Mammals Section supervisor.

What works against these cave bats is their annual reproduction provides limited replacement. Most female cave bats have one pup per year, a rate that would place their potential recovery more than a century away.

But some of the proposals for status change represent better news.

The peregrine falcon has seen a steady statewide recovery, which qualifies its status to be upgraded to threatened under the agency’s Peregrine Falcon Management Plan. This upgrade would keep PNDI screening and Game Commission coordination at status quo.

Upgrading the piping plover’s status to endangered recognizes its return to breeding in Pennsylvania. After more than 60 years of absence, piping plover pairs successfully nested at Presque Isle State Park in 2017 and 2018.

And changing the status of the red knot – a rare migrant bird found in Pennsylvania mostly at Presque Isle State Park – recognizes its vulnerability to further declines.

Both piping plovers and red knots currently are federally listed. The Game Commission would continue to defer potential conflict coordination for both species to the USFWS.

 

MENTORED HUNTING PROGRAMS OPEN TO ALL AGES

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that bridges the mentored youth and mentored adult hunting programs.

The mentored hunting programs are designed to increase hunter recruitment by providing an opportunity to experience hunting without the requirement to obtain a license.

With the change, youth up to 16 years of age can participate in the mentored youth program, and those 17 and older can participate in the mentored adult program.

Under the previous framework, there was no opportunity for those 12 to 17 to participate in a mentored program.

Mentored permits under the new framework will be available when 2019-20 hunting licenses go on sale.

Mentored hunters may hunt only certain game species and must follow other requirements.

Mentored youth may hunt only squirrels, rabbits, doves, woodchucks, coyotes, deer and turkeys. Mentored youth under the age of 7 do not receive their own big-game harvest tags; their adult mentors must possess a valid harvest tag when hunting deer or turkeys, and the mentor must transfer the tag to the mentored youth upon harvest by the mentored youth. Additionally, the mentor and mentored youth may possess only one sporting arm between them, and it must be carried by the mentor at all times while moving.

Meanwhile, mentored adults may hunt only squirrels, ruffed grouse, rabbits, pheasants (pheasant permit required), bobwhite quail, hares, porcupines, woodchucks, crows, coyotes, antlerless deer and turkeys. Mentored adults receive only a spring turkey tag with their permits. To harvest a fall turkey, their mentor must possess a valid fall-turkey harvest tag; and to harvest an antlerless deer, their mentor must possess a valid antlerless license or Deer Management Assistance Program permit; then transfer the applicable harvest tag to the mentored adult at the time of harvest. And a mentored adult must hunt within eyesight of the mentor.

While the mentored programs are viewed as important recruitment tools, they’re not intended as a substitute for getting a hunting license.

And the measure approved today requires that all mentored hunters ages 12 or older may participate in a mentored program for a maximum of three, unbroken license years. After that period, or following any year they lapse from the program, they’ll be required to obtain a license if they want to continue hunting. Youngsters who participated in the mentored youth program for at least three years before turning 12 would be required to get a license at 12, rather than continuing as a mentored hunter.

 

DISABLED VETERANS OF ANY AGE ELIGIBLE FOR GOOSE HUNT

A minor change adopted today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners ensures resident disabled-veteran hunters continue to be eligible for special disabled-veteran goose hunts at Middle Creek and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Areas, even after they give up their disabled-veteran licenses for senior lifetime licenses.

Previously, only resident disabled-veteran license holders were eligible to apply for the special hunts. The change extends the ability to apply to anyone holding a senior lifetime hunting or senior lifetime combination license who can provide documentation evidencing their eligibility for a resident disabled-veteran license or reduced fee disabled-veteran license.

 

BOARD OFFICERS TO CONTINUE IN POSITIONS

At its first quarterly meeting of 2019, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners selected to maintain its existing panel of officers.

Timothy Layton, who represents District 4 southcentral Pennsylvania, will continue to serve as president; James Daley, who represents District 1 in northwestern Pennsylvania, will continue to serve as vice president; and Stanley Knick Jr., who represents Region 7 in northeastern Pennsylvania, will continue to serve as secretary.

 

ENERGY LEASE AGREEMENT OK’D

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved amending an existing lease agreement with Greylock Production LLC to include the Game Commission’s oil and gas rights beneath about 24 acres on State Game Lands 223 in Greene County.

The existing agreement leases the agency’s oil and gas rights beneath 724 acres on State Game Lands 223.

The five-year non-surface-use agreement will result in a one-time bonus payment of about $70,916 being deposited into either the Game fund or an interest-bearing escrow account to be used for the future purchase of wildlife habitat.

Oil and gas development under the agreement will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s oil and gas regulations and the agency’s Standard Non-Surface Use Oil and Gas Cooperative Agreement.

 

LAND ACQUISITIONS TO EXPAND GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a host of land acquisitions that, combined, would add more than 3,000 acres to the state game lands system.

The majority of that acreage – 2,166 acres – is the result of a single acquisition in Lower Yoder and Upper Yoder townships in Cambria County. The acreage would become part of State Game Lands 42.

The land, which is dominated by hardwood forest, is being purchased from Brookville Wood Products Inc. for a $1,650,000 lump sum to be paid with third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on game lands from previously approved projects.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy holds a pre-existing conservation easement on most of the acres, which among other things limits development, surface mining and forest management there.

Other acquisitions approved at today’s meeting are:

  • The acquisition of 513 acres in Taylor and Shenango townships, Lawrence County, to be donated by the estate of Mary Joan Pavlich. A mix of hardwoods and shrubland, the property is about 4 ½ miles north of State Game Lands 148. The oil, gas and minerals on this property have been bequeathed to other entities. The Game Commission would be responsible to pay any outstanding unpaid property taxes, and most likely an inheritance tax on the property.

  • The acquisition of 99 acres in Union and Hunlock townships, Luzerne County, to be purchased from Lynda Gail Johnson for the option price of $400 per acre. The property, which is mostly forested and lies within Important Mammal Area 29, adjoins State Game Lands 224.

  • The acquisition of more than 91 acres in Cambridge Township, Crawford County, to be purchased for about $64,076 now held by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The tract, which contains hardwood forest, reverting old field and a floodplain wetlands, adjoins State Game Lands 277. The acquisition carries several restrictive covenants. No timber harvesting or tree cutting can occur unless approved by the conservancy. No farm crops or food plots can be planted, unless done with native species. There could be no infrastructure except for parking and reasonable access improvements. And no fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides could be used, except for invasive-species control.

  • The acquisition of 56 acres in Pine Grove Township, Warren County, from the estate of Ruth M. Horner for a $53,000 lump sum to be paid with third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on game lands from previously approved projects. Most of the tract, which adjoins State Game Lands 282 is made of reverting old fields, with about 10 acres in mixed hardwoods. The property is also located within the Akeley Swamp Important Bird Area.

  • The acquisition of 55 acres in Steuben Township, Crawford County, from Theodore J. and Pamela L. Weaver. The $134,000 lump sum option price is to be paid with third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on game lands from previously approved projects. The tract, which is mostly mixed hardwood forest, is an indenture to State Game Lands 122.

  • The acquisition of 28 acres in West Nantmeal Township, Chester County, through donation from Natural Lands Trust Inc. The tract, which has 18 acres of red oak and seven acres of agricultural fields, adjoins State Game Lands 43. The property lies within an Important Bird Area.

  • The acquisition of a 4,752-foot-long, 33-foot-wide right-of-way in Pleasant Valley Township, Potter County from Kenneth R. Comstock and Janice G. Comstock for access into a detached parcel of State Game Lands 59. The $14,390 lump sum option price is to be paid with third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on game lands from previously approved projects. The Game Commission has an existing road right-of-way granted by the Comstocks by a prior deed that was never developed and would be abandoned by the Game Commission as part of this agreement. The new right-of-way is a fully developed gravel road, and by acquiring it, the Game Commission would avoid the cost and significant environmental disturbance of developing a new road where none exists.

 

2019 MEETING DATES SELECTED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today set its schedule of meetings for the coming year.

The next quarterly meeting is Monday, April 8 and Tuesday, April 9 at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters. Meetings also are scheduled for July 22 and 23, and Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

The Working Group Meeting schedule has not yet been finalized.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541

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