HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters to hear public comment and take action on several items. A summary of the meeting appears below.
STATEWIDE BAN ON URINE-BASED DEER ATTRACTANTS FAILS TO ADVANCE
The proposed statewide ban on the use and field possession of urine-based deer attractants and other cervid excretions failed to gain majority support from the Board of Commissioners, meaning it will advance no further toward adoption at this time.
The Board of Commissioners was split 4-4 on whether to move the proposal toward final adoption.
Commissioners Michael Mitrick, Dennis Fredericks, Scott Foradora and Todd Pride voted to preliminarily approve the statewide ban. Commissioners Kristen Schnepp-Giger, Allen Di Marco, Stanley Knick Jr. and Haley Sankey voted against preliminary approval. Commissioner Robert Schwalm was not in attendance.
Commissioner Knick pointed out that, while the proposal failed to move forward, there will be the opportunity to bring it up again in the future.
Many of the commissioners commented on the proposal, and the difficulty with which they arrived at a decision to vote for or against it. While there’s evidence commercially produced urine-based deer attractants might contain Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) prions, making them potentially infectious, the actual risk of such attractants spreading CWD to deer and elk is less clear.
CWD is fatal to deer, elk and other cervids. CWD can be transmitted directly from animal to animal, or indirectly when deer or elk contact prions in soil or other contaminated environments. Where CWD is detected in free-ranging or captive deer, the Game Commission establishes regulations meant to slow the spread of CWD to other areas. Within CWD Disease Management Areas, the use or field possession of urine-based deer attractants is prohibited.
ADJUSTMENTS TO ANTLERLESS LICENSE LIMIT TABLED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today tabled a proposal that would have made changes to a hunter’s personal limit of antlerless deer licenses and the number of licenses that could be purchased once over-the-counter sales of remaining tags begin in September.
Senate Bill 431, which has made progress toward adoption, would allow hunters to buy antlerless deer licenses at any license issuing agent, not just through county treasurers. That would resolve many of the issues that were behind the proposal the board was considering. Commissioners opted to table a vote and allow time for the legislation to advance.
Sponsored by Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, Senate Bill 431 was approved in the state Senate by a 45-5 vote earlier this month, and subsequently voted favorably by the House Game and Fisheries Committee. It is now before the House of Representatives.
BOARD PAYS RESPECTS TO COMMISSIONER FOX
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners took time to remember one of the Keystone State’s most dedicated conservationists, the late Charles Fox.
Fox, of Troy in Bradford County, passed away on Sept. 19.
He served eight years as a member of the Game Commission board, representing District 5, which includes Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Sullivan, Tioga and Union counties, through April of 2021. His commitment to Pennsylvania’s wildlife and hunting and trapping heritage goes back decades before that, though.
A longtime Deputy Game Warden, Fox is remembered perhaps most for his efforts to introduce young people to the outdoors. He was the Volunteer Coordinator for the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge and the co-coordinator of the NRA Youth Education Summit. He also served eight years as a mentor to the Governor's Youth Council on Hunting, Fishing and Conservation.
In addition to that, Fox was President of Mill Cove Inc. That’s the group behind development of the Mill Cove Environmental Area in Tioga County. Mill Cove offers outdoor recreational activities – from hunting, fishing and hiking to kayaking, wildlife viewing and picnicking – for Mansfield University students and residents from surrounding areas.
A lover of history, Fox was also instrumental in the development of the Pennsylvania’s Conservation Heritage Museum, which opened earlier this summer in a new wing of Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area’s Visitor Center in Stevens, on the border of Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
“It was an honor to work with a man like that,” Commissioner Dennis Fredericks said.
OTTER HARVEST REPORTING REQUIREMENTS, TRAP SIZES COULD CHANGE
Reporting requirements for successful otter trappers might soon mirror those for tappers or hunters taking fishers or bobcats.
Otter harvests presently must be reported within 24 hours so the Game Commission may inspect the animal and confirm it was taken during the season.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to changing that reporting period to 48 hours, which would match the requirements for bobcat and fisher harvests.
The shorter reporting period was established for the 2015-16 license year, when otter trapping returned to Pennsylvania after more than 60 years. Initially, a three-day season was held in two Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). Today, the season is eight days long and held in five WMUs, and the Game Commission’s concerns about trappers harvesting otters early then reporting them during the season have diminished.
The measure will be brought back to a future meeting for a final vote. If adopted, it will take effect for the 2023-24 license year.
Additionally, the Board of Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure that would remove the size limits on body-gripping traps used for otters. Presently, body-gripping traps with a spread larger than 6 ½ -by- 6 ½ inches are prohibited, except for beaver. The change would allow them for otters, as well.
The Game Commission has determined there would be no significant biological concerns with this change.
BOATS ON GAME LANDS COULD BE RESTRICTED TO NO-WAKE SPEED
Technological advances that have increased the horsepower attainable by some electric boat motors have resulted in a measure that could restrict operating speeds for boats used on state game lands.
The Pennsylvania Board of Commissioners today voted preliminarily to limit the speed of all boats on open, game lands waterways to “slow, no wake” speed.
That would mean that, on waterways that are open to boats with electric motors, those boats would have to operate at the slowest possible speed required to maintain maneuverability, so that the wake or wash created by the boat on the surface of the water is minimal.
Commissioners said the change is necessary in light of the power some newer electric motors possess. It better ensures boaters on game lands will continue to operate safely, without conflicts with other users.
The measure will be brought back to a future meeting for a final vote.
MUZZLELOADERS USING CAPTURED POWDER CHARGES APPROVED
Legal definitions that prohibited hunters from using muzzleloading firearms accepting breech-loaded, captured-powder charges have been amended through a vote of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.
The board today gave final approval to a measure that will permit hunters to use muzzleloaders accepting captured-powder charges beginning in the 2023-24 season.
As their name suggests, muzzleloading firearms typically are loaded from the muzzle. And previous law prohibited any muzzleloaders accepting cartridge ammunition.
Some modern muzzleloaders, however, accept charges similar to cartridges, but that contain only powder. The captured powder charges are loaded from the breech while the projectiles are loaded from the muzzle. But those muzzleloaders were prohibited because of the prohibition on cartridge use in muzzleloaders.
The commissioners have said the prohibition on cartridge use in muzzleloaders originally was intended to restrict modern firearms that accept cartridges containing both projectile and powder. Amending the law to allow muzzleloaders that accept captured powder charges preserves that original intent.
Hunters using captured powder charges in appropriate firearms also might find greater convenience in the ability to more easily unload their muzzleloader without firing it.
RANGE REGULATIONS ADJUSTED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to new regulations that would govern shotgun ranges on game lands.
Previously, there were only a few ranges designated specifically as shotgun ranges, but with their increasing popularity, more are planned.
The regulations adopted by the board set forth the types of firearms, ammunition and targets that may be used on shotgun ranges, and would help ensure safety at ranges.
As part of that, the board further defined what constitutes handgun and rifle ranges. A handgun range is “an area where paper targets are placed on or affixed to a stationary backer and targeted by a shooter using a handgun that discharges single projectile ammunition.” The definition of a rifle range is identical, except that the word “firearm” replaces handgun.
In addition to approving regulations for shotgun ranges, the commissioners also voted to eliminate regulations specific to the shooting range on State Game Lands 176 in Centre County. Previous regulations set different hours of operation for the State Game Lands 176 shooting range compared to all others on game lands statewide. The period during which groups and organizations may reserve the range also was different.
When these changes become effective, there will be no regulations specific to the State Game Lands 176 shooting range, meaning it will be open from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Saturday, and noon to sunset on most Sundays. Groups will be able to reserve the range from Jan. 1 through Oct. 1.
BOARD APPROVES LAND ACQUISITIONS, ENERGY LEASE
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today and recently approved of acquisitions that would add nearly 3,000 acres to state game lands. Among them are:
- Roughly 137 acres located in Lower Frankford Township, Cumberland County, and Spring Township, Perry County, commonly referred to as Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch. This strategically located site, in three parcels, is being donated by National Audubon Society Inc. It is the second-oldest hawk watch in the United States, with 68 years of migratory bird data collection. Typically, 15,000 to 30,000 raptors fly over in a four-month period. Deed restrictions preclude hunting on two of the parcels. The Tuscarora Trail, a spur from the Appalachian Trail, runs through all three, and there’s a trail shelter known as the Charlie Irvin Shelter on one.
- A 45-acre tract in Cranberry Township, Venango County, adjoining State Game Lands 45. This land was offered by Blue Ox Timber Resources Inc. for $400 per acre, to be paid from the Game Fund.
- A 78-acre tract in North Middleton Township, Cumberland County. This land, which connects two tracts of State Game Lands 230, was offered for $400 per acre by the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy Inc. The price is to be paid from the Game Fund.
- A 1,367-acre tract of land in Taylor Township, Blair County, adjoining State Game Lands 147. The price of $1.2 million, payable to Roaring Spring Borough, is being paid with funding from the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund (IBCF), which funds projects important to the conservation and recovery of the Indiana bat within Pennsylvania. The Indiana bat is a federal- and state-listed endangered species, so this property will be managed primarily for its benefit. The purchase is subject to approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- A 1,088-acre tract in Shohola Township, Pike County, adjoining State Game Lands 180. The $2 million cost, payable to The Nature Conservancy, will come from the Game Commission’s restricted account, which is money collected from third parties as compensation of habitat and recreational losses on state game lands from other projects. The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition of the property is contingent upon it receiving funding through a partnership grant with the Open Space Institute.
- A 264-parcel in Ridgway Township, Elk County. Connecting two tracts of State Game Lands 25, this property is being acquired from H&M Logging for $340,000, with the money coming from the Game Commission’s restricted account.
Additionally, the Game Commission approved a non-surface-use oil and gas agreement with Chesapeake Appalachia-LLC, of Oklahoma City, OK, to develop approximately 3,965 acres of Commission-owned oil and gas rights under State Game Lands 36 in Overton and Franklin Townships, Bradford County. The Game Commission will receive a one-time bonus payment of $11.895 million plus royalties paid over the life of the agreement.
MEDIA CONTACT: Travis Lau - 717-705-6541
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