HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, in compliance with state guidelines to minimize the effects of COVID-19, met today in an online format that was open for the public to follow live. Meeting highlights appear below.
NIGHT-VISION OPTICS APPROVED FOR FURBEARER HUNTING
Furbearer hunters soon will have the option of using handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change that will allow these devices to be used while hunting furbearers. The change will become effective in about six weeks to eight weeks, after the regulation is reviewed and published in the Pennsylvania Manual. The Game Commission will issue a news release at that time to announce the regulation has been published.
The ability for the Game Commission to regulate night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics was authorized earlier this year through the passage of state House Bill 1188. Previously, the hunting use of these devices was prohibited by state law. The board at its July meeting gave preliminary approval to a proposal to allow handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics for furbearer hunting, taking swift action to begin the process of regulating these devices in response to comments the agency had received since the bill’s passage. The final vote came today.
“Following the passage of HB 1188, the Board of Commissioners was flooded with comments asking for prompt adoption of regulations permitting the use of night-vision equipment,” said board President Charlie Fox. “The board did just that, and hunters now will be able to use these devices this year, and at a time when furbearer pelts are becoming prime. This equipment will provide furbearer hunters an additional tool that will allow them to be more efficient and safe when hunting at night.”
The adopted regulations were drafted by the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Protection, which reviewed data from other states that permit the use of night-vision equipment and determined there were no safety concerns regarding their use for hunting furbearers in Pennsylvania.
There are hunting seasons for the following furbearers: raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks, weasels, bobcats and porcupines.
AMENDED REGULATIONS COULD BETTER ADDRESS WILDLIFE DISEASES
Diseases that threaten Pennsylvania’s wildlife populations will be able to be met head-on through a regulatory change given preliminary approval today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.
Noting the emergence of wildlife diseases such as rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), which is having damaging effects in the southwestern United States, the board unanimously approved amending a section of Pennsylvania Code to expand the Game Commission’s ability to address wildlife diseases through executive order. Presently, the Game Commission is permitted to address chronic wasting disease (CWD) by executive order. The amendment would enable other diseases to be addressed in this manner as well, if needed.
“As we have seen with wildlife diseases such as CWD in deer, West Nile virus in grouse, and white-nose syndrome in bats, disease impacts on wildlife populations can occur quickly and to a severe degree,” said board President Charlie Fox. “While the Game Commission has the authority to quickly step in to confront new or growing CWD issues, other diseases also are of concern and, at times, the ability to act immediately could make a meaningful difference for wildlife.”
Further changes to CWD-specific regulations also were given preliminary approval. The term “Established Area,” which is contained within the agency’s new CWD Response Plan, has been preliminarily included in regulatory language. High-risk deer parts, including the head and backbone, may not be removed from the Established Area.
The amended regulations will be brought back to a future board meeting for final approval.
ANTLERLESS DEER LICENSE APPLICATION PROCESS REVIEWED
Pennsylvania Game Commission staff today appeared before the Board of Commissioners to deliver a report on the application process for antlerless deer licenses.
While the existing process is required by state law, and can’t be changed by the Game Commission unless the General Assembly first passes legislation that amends the law, the commissioners asked staff in July to proactively review the process.
Existing state law requires that antlerless deer licenses be issued by county treasurers.
Game Commission staff determined the existing automated license system used by the agency is capable of issuing antlerless licenses, either on a first-come, first-serve basis, or through lottery. Staff identified its preferred option is selling antlerless deer licenses on a first-come, first-serve basis, and identified a procedure and plan for implementing this process. The Commission will now continue to work with the General Assembly on amending Title 34 to allow for modernization of the antlerless license sale process.
REGULATIONS REGARDING DAMAGE AND CONFLICTS BY CANADA GEESE CHANGE
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that would pull state regulations into line with recently changed federal guidelines that provide farmers and other landowners additional time to address problems from resident Canada geese.
Landowners properly registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously were allowed to destroy Canada goose nests and eggs on their properties from March through June, and properly permitted agricultural producers could kill small numbers of adult geese causing crop damage from May through August.
The adopted changes would allow the year-round take of nests and eggs, and expand the period during which the take for agricultural depredation is allowable to April through August.
Other registration and permitting requirements for both types of control activities remain unchanged.
Game Commission staff said incorporating the federal changes into state regulations isn’t expected to greatly increase the taking of Canada geese by permit, and little or no impact on overall goose populations is anticipated.
MORE THAN 430 ACRES COULD BE ADDED TO GAME LANDS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a host of land acquisitions that would add more than 430 acres to state game lands.
The approved acquisitions are:
The acquisition of more than 213 acres to be added to State Game Lands 170 in Perry and Cumberland counties. The land would be purchased from The Nature Conservancy for a $213,000 lump-sum option price to be paid from third-party commitments to compensate for habitat and recreational losses on state game lands from previously approved projects. The land to be acquired is made up of five parcels – three of them adjoining State Game Lands 170 in Penn Township, Perry County, and two of them south of the game lands in East Pennsboro and Hampden townships, Cumberland County.
The acquisition by donation of 139 acres adjoining State Game Lands 219 in Warren Township, Bradford County. The property would be donated by The Conservation Fund, which is acquiring it with funding provided by Williams Companies for voluntary mitigation as a result of impacts associated with the Constitution Pipeline project in Susquehanna County.
The acquisition by donation of 75 acres adjoining State Game Lands 55 in North Centre Township, Columbia County. Regency Marcellus Shale Gathering LLC offered to donate the land as replacement habitat to mitigate for lost wildlife resources and recreational opportunities associated with natural gas pipeline construction and maintenance on State Game Lands 12 in Sullivan and Bradford counties.
The acquisition of 2.67 acres adjoining State Game Lands 156 in South Lebanon Township, Lebanon County, through donation from the estate of Daniel R. Blouch.
The acquisition by donation of 0.36 acres in Wiconisco Township, Dauphin County. The parcel is fully surrounded by State Game Lands 264 and would be added to the game lands. This tract previously was offered by Ladnar Inc., but after an examination of Ladnar’s title, it was determined Dauphin County also might have an interest in the land. Therefore, Dauphin County has offered to donate any interest it might have in the land.
ENERGY AGREEMENT APPROVED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a five-year agreement that would allow Robindale Energy Services Inc. to remove an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tons of economically recoverable coal refuse material within approximately 4.6 acres of State Game Lands 79 in Blacklick Township, Cambria County.
The coal refuse removal and reclamation would be part of a larger project involving coal refuse removal on adjacent private lands. The project on the game lands would eliminate an abandoned mining-related building and restore the area to a more-natural state, as well as improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
The Armagh, Pa.-based Robindale would pay the Game Commission royalties for the coal refuse removed. All payments would be added to the agency’s Game Fund.
NEW STRATEGIC PLAN ADOPTED
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has a new strategic plan to carry the agency through 2023.
Game Commission staff today unveiled the agency’s 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, which was adopted by the Board of Game Commissioners.
The plan outlines a host of goals, and timetables for their implementation, across the many areas in which the Game Commission carries out its mission to manage the state’s wildlife and habitats for current and future generations. Goals are identified for wildlife; state game lands and habitat management; hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing; staff recruitment, development, retention and support; agency sustainability, operations and customer experience; and agency communications and branding.
The plan will be available to view at www.pgc.pa.gov next week.
BOARD THANKS HOOVER FOR SERVICE
The Board of Commissioners and Game Commission staff today recognized Commissioner Brian Hoover, and thanked him for his more than eight years of service on the board, which including serving as secretary, vice president and president. Today was Hoover’s last meeting as commissioner.
Hoover, who represented District 8 comprising Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill counties, thanked agency staff and the Board of Commissioners, and praised their efforts in working for wildlife and habitat on behalf of hunters and trappers.
“I think we have assembled the greatest staff in the country to work on hunting-related issues,” Hoover said.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans thanked Hoover for his dedicated service, his strong commitment to represent the interest of hunters and trappers and the overall knowledge that he brought to the board.
“He has been a great support and mentor to me, has taught me a lot and will be missed,” Burhans said.
Many on the board, among them board President Charlie Fox, took the opportunity to thank Hoover for his service.
“I echo these comments and simply will say it’s been a great ride,” Fox said.
NEXT MEETING SCHEDULED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today scheduled its January meeting for Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23, to be held at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave.
MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541
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