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HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY'S COMMISSIONERS MEETING

07/24/2021

HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Harrisburg. It's the first time in more than a year the board has met in person at a central location . Business from today's meeting included:

 

TWO RAPTORS UP FOR STATUS CHANGES

One Pennsylvania raptor soon might be placed on the state’s endangered-species list, while another that’s presently classified as a threatened species could be upgraded.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to placing the northern goshawk on the state’s endangered-species list, and removing the peregrine falcon from the state’s threatened species list.

The measure will be brought back to the September meeting for a final vote.

The proposed changes reflect the strikingly different population trends for goshawks and peregrines.

The northern goshawk, which in Pennsylvania is at the southern limits of its range in the Northeast, has experienced range contraction and a dramatic population decline in the past 20 years. Classifying the northern goshawk as an endangered species would further protect it by limiting or delaying certain activities within northern goshawk breeding habitat during courtship and nesting seasons.

A large secretive raptor of mature, mixed forests, the northern goshawk is found in Pennsylvania’s northern tier and at high elevations across the state.

Meanwhile, the peregrine falcon, which was upgraded from endangered- to threatened-species status in 2019, has continued to see population increases. The recommendation for its upgrade is based on the Game Commission’s 2013-2022 Peregrine Falcon Management Plan, which establishes objectives for the species’ recovery that now have been achieved.

The proposed change signals a significant conservation victory after 40 years of recovery action in Pennsylvania and nationally, in which the Game Commission has played an active role. Adoption of the change would mark the third high-profile raptor recovery in Pennsylvania, following the delisting of the bald eagle and osprey – demonstrating that placing a species on the endangered or threatened list is not a permanent designation, and recovery is an achievable goal.

The Board of Commissioners also gave preliminary approval to a separate motion that’s intended to provide the peregrine falcon additional protection if it’s removed from the threatened-species list. As part of the penalty for killing a threatened species, a $5,000 replacement cost can be assessed. But when a recovered animal comes off the threatened-species list, the replacement cost drops to just $200, unless regulatory changes are made to increase it.

If the peregrine is upgraded and removed from the threatened-species list, regulations would be adjusted so a $2,500 replacement cost would apply, the board voted preliminarily. This measure, too, will be brought back to the September meeting for final adoption.

 

RED TAG PROGRAM COULD BE REVAMPED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a host of changes that will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Agricultural Deer Control Program, better known as the Red Tag Program, which helps farmers address crop-damage issues through the hunting of antlerless deer.

If adopted, the measure would become effective in July 2022.

The changes were recommended by those who use the program following a meeting with the Game Commission’s Deer and Elk Section. Proposed changes include:

  • An individual hunter no longer would be limited to obtaining one permit for a Red Tag property; they could get up to four. The higher limit is consistent with that used in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), which also helps landowners meet deer-management goals through antlerless deer hunting. Hunters would be able to keep all deer they harvest.

  • The summer period during which Red Tag hunting is closed (currently May 16 – June 30) would be expanded to April 16 – July 31. Permits would be valid from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15, then from Feb. 1 through April 15. Permits would be issued for the license year that begins July 1 and runs through June 30.

  • Landowners no longer would be required to report Red Tag harvests. Instead, similar to DMAP, hunters would report for each permit regardless of harvest success.

  • All licensed hunters, not just hunters who are Pennsylvania residents, would qualify for Red Tag permits.

  • The red snap tags that are the namesake of the Red Tag Program, would be replaced with standard harvest tags issued through HuntFishPA.

  • Landowners no longer would need to enroll in the Game Commission’s Hunter Access program before using the Red Tag program, and Red Tag properties no longer would need to be posted with signs.

The measure will be brought back to the September meeting for a final vote.

“The Agricultural Deer Control Program is designed to allow farmers to manage the deer populations on their property,” said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife

Management Director Matthew Schnupp. “The changes preliminarily approved by the Board today will make it easier for landowners to enroll and also making it more convenient for hunters to participate through the expanded season and increase in the number of tags they can use.”

 

NEW MENTORED HUNTING OPPORTUNITIES CREATED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted new opportunities for mentored hunters, who soon will be able to pursue waterfowl and bears in addition to other select species.

Mentored hunters ages 7 and older will be able to purchase their own bear licenses. Those under age 7 must receive a valid bear license through transfer from an adult mentor.

All mentored hunters pursuing waterfowl will need a Pennsylvania migratory bird license, in addition to their mentored hunting permit. Those mentored hunters ages 16 and older also will need a federal duck stamp.

Though adopted by the board, these new opportunities for mentored hunters will not become effective until they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, a process that typically takes about six to eight weeks.

The measure adopted by the board also enables mentored hunters ages 7 and older to buy their own special spring turkey licenses, and allows those licenses to be transferred from their original holders to a mentored hunter under age 7.

With the additional opportunities, mentored hunters will be able to hunt rabbits, hares, ruffed grouse, mourning doves, bobwhite quail, pheasants, crows, squirrels, porcupines, woodchucks, coyotes, deer, waterfowl, bears and wild turkeys in the coming seasons.

 

STRAIGHT-WALLED CARTRIDGES APPROVED FOR SPECIAL REGULATIONS AREAS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change that allows the use of straight-walled centerfire cartridges within Special Regulation Areas.

This change will provide hunters within those areas more choices when selecting a firearm.

Straight-walled cartridges essentially are a short-range option for rifle shooters. They lose velocity quickly, but at their optimal ranges, they can be highly effective ammunition. In many states straight-walled cartridges have become an alternative in shotgun-only areas. Their limited range is similar to a rifled shotgun, inside 200 yards, but they often provide better accuracy and considerably less recoil, making their use an attractive option for younger or female hunters.

Additionally, regulations pertaining to Special Regulations Areas were reorganized to help make them clearer.

 

BEAVER TRAP RESTRICTIONS RELAXED

In the overlap with otter trapping season, and for five days beyond, beaver trappers in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) with open otter seasons had been limited to using no more than five traps or snares, no more than two of which could be body-gripping traps.

No more.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that limits trap restrictions in those WMUs to the period when otter season is open. Once the season closes, beaver trappers can resume normal trap restrictions.

The Game Commission determined post-otter-season trap restrictions no longer are needed. The requirement was put in place to avoid accidental otter captures in the event otter season had to be extended. That hasn’t happened since 2015, and longer trapping seasons instead of season-specific extensions will be proposed by the Game Commission in areas where more otters can be trapped sustainably.

 

BOARD APPROVES OIL AND GAS AGREEMENTS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved several oil, gas and mineral agreements.

First, Commissioners agreed to a five-year, non-surface use oil and gas agreement with Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, of Oklahoma City, to develop about 600 acres under a portion of State Game Lands 66 in Colley Township, Sullivan County. Under the agreement, Chesapeake will access the Commission’s oil and gas reserve by horizontal drilling from adjacent private lands where it holds leases, with no disturbance to the game lands surface.

The Game Commission will receive a bonus payment which will be deposited in the Game Fund. As additional compensation, Chesapeake will also convey a 0.39-acre interior parcel located on State Game Lands 285 in Darlington Township, Beaver County, to the Commission. Future rentals and royalties shall be directly deposited into the Game Fund.

Second, Commissioners approved a 25-year agreement allowing Britt Energies Inc. of Indiana, Pa., to deep mine and remove the Loyalhanna Limestone from beneath approximately 616 acres of State Game Lands 153. Under the agreement, Britt will develop an underground mine to access Commission-owned stone reserve through a mine portal and processing area located on the recently acquired 33-acre Stilley tract portion of State Game Lands 153. The Stilley tract was deeded to the Commission in February after surface coal mine operations were completed.

As compensation to the Commission, Britt Energies will pay royalties on the stone mined, with the money deposited in the Game Fund. Additionally, to offset habitat loss and recreational use of the game lands from the portal and processing plant, Britt Energy, through Mystic Development, will convey a 190-acre tract of land in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County, to the Commission. The Mystic Development tract is an indenture on State Game Lands 273 with public road frontage that provides access to an area of the game land which was previously not readily accessible to the public.

Third, Commissioners agreed to allow RES Coal LLC of Armagh, Pa., to conduct surface coal mining on an additional 95 acres on State Game Lands 198 in Cresson Township, Blair County. An existing agreement, which dates to October 2003, allows for surface mining on 178 acres of the game lands.

The Commission does not own the coal rights on this property.

RES will pay royalties to the Commission for 10 years, with all funds deposited in the Game Fund. RES will also be responsible for all reclamation on the entire project area.

 

ACREAGE ADDED TO STATE GAME LANDS

Pennsylvania’s Board of Game Commissioners today approved one land acquisition that adds to the state game lands system.

Commissioners acquired roughly 19.2 acres of land in Lehigh Township, Northampton County, adjoining State Game Lands 168. The price is $33,000, with money coming from the Game Fund’s restricted revenue account. Access to the parcel is through an existing portion of the game lands.

 

COMMENTS TO BE ACCEPTED ON DRAFT BOBWHITE QUAIL MANAGEMENT PLAN

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today directed staff to release for public comment the agency’s draft Northern Bobwhite Quail Management Plan, which when adopted will guide efforts over the next 10 years to restore this native species, once common in Pennsylvania but missing from our landscape since the late 20th to early 21st century.

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission and partner organizations have taken great strides in recent years to create suitable habitat for bobwhite at our focus area, the Letterkenny Army Depot in Franklin County, and we are committed to re-establishing a wild population in the Commonwealth,” said Game Commission quail biologist Andrew Ward.

Increases in grassland songbirds and American woodcock have already been documented at Letterkenny, indicating that the habitat conditions are becoming more conducive to supporting a self-sustaining quail population. The management plan outlines strategies to maintain and expand these habitat improvements, translocate wild quail to Letterkenny following established best practices, and monitor populations and habitats post-reintroduction. The plan will also guide work to inform and educate the public, carry out cooperative projects with partners, and extend the restoration effort to other suitable areas in the vicinity of Letterkenny.

“The Game Commission’s strategic plan sets a goal of reintroducing bobwhite quail to Pennsylvania by 2023,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The species management plan provides the detailed road map to successfully achieving this goal, and building upon that success in the longer term. Before finalizing the plan, we are seeking public comment to ensure that it considers the thoughts and concerns of Pennsylvanians about this species.”

The draft plan and instructions on how to submit comments will be posted on the agency’s website in the near future. A summary of public comments received, and any changes made in response to the comments, will be included in the final version of the Northern Bobwhite Quail Management Plan, which is expected to be presented to the Board of Commissioners for approval at the board’s September meeting.

 

BOARD ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON SUNDAY HUNTING, FEDERAL LEGISLATION

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted two resolutions. One supports the expansion of Sunday hunting as a means of boosting hunter opportunity, supporting local economies and providing additional funding for wildlife management. The other supports adoption of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would allocate $1.3 billion annually for wildlife conservation across the nation.

The full text of the resolutions follows.

 

Sunday hunting

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth has experienced a consistent decline in hunting participation over the past several decades; and

WHEREAS, These declines have negatively affected participation by both resident and non-resident hunters and have resulted in an accompanying steady decline in the number of licenses sold and revenues generated; and

WHEREAS, The Commission recognizes that youth participation is vital to maintaining the long-standing tradition of hunting within the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, Section 2303 of the Game and Wildlife Code (relating to hunting on Sunday prohibited)(34 Pa.C.S. § 2303) currently provides very limited Sunday hunting opportunities within the Commonwealth; and

WHEREAS, Expanded Sunday hunting can be an effective means of recruiting new hunters and retaining current hunters by increasing the value of a hunting license by offering additional opportunities to spend time in the field; and

WHEREAS, The Commission recognizes that it can effectively double the number of hunting days for youths during the school year by offering additional Sunday hunting opportunities; and

WHEREAS, Many residents of this Commonwealth seek hunting opportunities and hunting leases in neighboring states that offer Sunday hunting; and

WHEREAS, The Commission has determined that Sunday hunting will help keep Pennsylvania hunters in Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS, The Commonwealth has a long-standing tradition of hunting camps and clubs; and

WHEREAS, Expanded Sunday hunting opportunities could effectively double the number of hunting days for camp owners and club members; and

WHEREASs, Expanded Sunday hunting opportunities have the potential to provide substantial economic benefits to rural areas and businesses by increasing money spent by hunters on lodging, food, gas and other incidental items; and

WHEREAS, Expanded Sunday hunting opportunities have the potential to generate a substantial increase in out-of-state license sales and the accompanying revenue for the Commission; and

WHEREAS, Hunting license sales and their associated federal matching funds are the primary revenue source for the Commission in carrying out its mission, including maintaining 1.5 million acres of state game lands and acquisition of additional public lands, research and management of wildlife and providing information and education to the public; and

WHEREAS, Expanded Sunday hunting opportunities could effectively generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax; and

WHEREAS, The mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage wildlife and its habitat for current and future generations; and

WHEREAS, Expanded Sunday hunting opportunities have would provide the Commission’s biologists with a new tool to manage wildlife populations; and

WHEREAS, The Commission has observed that the 43 states that currently permit Sunday hunting have not experienced any discernable negative impact on the health or vibrancy of game populations by allowing Sunday hunting; and

WHEREAS, The Commission’s Board of Commissioners recognizes that the authority to expand Sunday hunting lies entirely with the General Assembly of Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS, If the General Assembly repeals the restrictions on Sunday hunting and grants the Commission the authority to regulate Sunday hunting, the Board recognizes the many stakeholder groups that any actions on Sunday hunting will affect and will endeavor to engage these stakeholders before passing any new regulations in regard to Sunday hunting.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Game Commission does hereby urge the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to repeal the prohibition on Sunday hunting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

WHEREAS Article 1 § 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides for “…the preservations of the natural....values of the environment” as a birthright of every Pennsylvania citizen, including “generations yet to come”; and

WHEREAS the Title 34 § 103 of the Game and Wildlife Code provides ownership, jurisdiction, and control of game and wildlife to the PGC; and

WHEREAS, the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage Pennsylvania’s 480 wild birds, wild mammals, and their habitats for current and future generations; and

WHEREAS the PGC does not receive revenue from the Pennsylvania General Fund; and

WHEREAS there is a recognized need to expand the dedicated and sustainable funding base for wildlife conservation in Pennsylvania and throughout the Nation; and

WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, made up of 26 business and conservation leaders, was tasked with recommending a new funding mechanism to support state fish and wildlife conservation to ensure the sustainability of all fish and wildlife for current and future generations; and,

WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources has recommended that Congress dedicate to states and territories $1.3 billion annually to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program to diversify funding and management of all wildlife; and

WHEREAS, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would fund recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources by making funds available for management of fish and wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need as determined by state fish and wildlife agencies in each state’s Wildlife Action Plan; and

WHEREAS securing dedicated federal funding is likely to require a non-federal state match similar to that in place for the Pittman-Robertson; and

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED TO support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED TO that the PGC encourage other state fish & wildlife agencies throughout the country to do the same; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED TO support broadening non-federal dedicated funding mechanisms for wildlife conservation and implementation of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, and to serve as the state’s 25 percent match, in the event that new dedicated federal funding is secured.

 

 

AGENCY INCREASES DONATION TO WILDLIFE REHABILITATORS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous approval to increasing the donation the agency has given to Pennsylvania wildlife rehabilitators who care for bald eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons suffering from lead poisoning.

The agency had contributed $15,000 annually toward this cause, but will increase that amount to $30,00 to better reflect the rehabilitation costs incurred.

Wildlife that is successfully treated and returned to health can be released again into the Pennsylvania wilds.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541

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