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HARRISBURG, PA - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Erie, hearing public comment and conducting official business. Highlights from today’s meeting follow.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today added substantially to the state game lands system, with three deals especially noteworthy.

First, the commissioners approved an oil and gas agreement with Pennsylvania General Energy Co. (PGE). PGE will extract oil and gas from beneath a portion of State Game Lands 75 in Brown and Pine townships, Lycoming County, using existing infrastructure so that there’s no net increase in surface disturbance.

In exchange, PGE will convey to the Game Commission 2,195 acres in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, known as the Spring Creek Tract, and 943 acres in East Taylor and Croyle townships, Cambria County, known as the South Fork Tract.

The Spring Creek Tract is considered one of the most prized in the area because of its biological diversity. It will become an entirely new game lands, State Game Lands 337.

The South Fork Tract will become part of State Game Lands 79.

Second, the commissioners approved another oil and gas agreement with PGE allowing it to extract oil and gas from beneath a portion of State Game Lands 134 in Gamble and Plunketts Creek townships, Lycoming County, and Hillsgrove Township, Sullivan County, provided it confines all of its equipment to one right of way.

In exchange, PGE will convey to the Game Commission 3,931 acres in Jay Township, Elk County – the heart of the elk range – for what will become State Game Lands 338. PGE will also make a $500,000 contribution to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for use in creating elk habitat in cooperation with the Game Commission.

In addition to the land gained, these two gas leases will generate future revenues to the Game Commission, with a 16% royalty rate due on all gas produced.

Third, the commissioners also approved the acquisition of the first game lands located in Philadelphia County. The 17.88-acre site sits within the City of Philadelphia. Donated by Westrum Byberry LP, the new game lands will serve as a gateway for Philadelphians to learn about the Game Commission and what it does.

Hunting with firearms is prohibited in Philadelphia County, but the deer population there is high. Game Commission Southeast Region Director Pete Sussenbach said much of the archery deer hunting in the area takes place on parcels of an acre or less, so an 18-acre tract that’s open to the public represents a significant opportunity for hunters.

“It’s only 18 acres, but down there, 18 acres is an extremely sizeable property to hunt whitetails on,” Sussenbach said.

Other land acquisitions approved by the board are:

  • Roughly 245 acres in Cooper Township, Clearfield County, donated by Basin Run Quarry I Ltd. This parcel will allow the Game Commission to repair a game-lands road and restore access to 500 acres of State Game Lands 100. The parcel is completely encompassed by the Susquehanna Headwaters Important Bird Area.
  • Roughly 7.25 acres in Delmar Township, Tioga County, near State Game Lands 313. The parcel will expand the Game Commission’s ownership of the emergent wetland called “The Muck,” an Important Bird Area known to provide habitat and breeding grounds for migratory birds.
  • Roughly 53.3 acres in Plunketts Creek Township, Lycoming County, adjoining State Game Lands 134 and Loyalsock State Forest.
  • Roughly 3.4 acres in Moore Township, Northampton County, adjacent to State Game Lands 168.

The Game Commission also acquired one-half interest in the subsurface oil, gas, and mineral rights to roughly 15,000 acres in and under State Game Lands 57 in Wyoming County. Funding comes from the Game Fund. This gives the Game Commission greater control over any possible future extractive efforts that might impact the unique habitat on the game lands.

Finally, the board approved non-surface use oil and gas cooperative agreements for a total of about 3,818 acres of State Game Lands 57 in North Branch Township, Wyoming County. Those are covered by two agreements, one involving 2,885 acres and the other 607 acres.

Board of Commissioners President Kristen Schnepp-Giger said the acquisitions approved today provide a huge benefit for the state’s wildlife, hunters, trappers and other users of game lands.

“Whenever we can leverage natural-resource development on game lands into preserving significant acreage for wildlife, and at the same time provide public hunting and trapping opportunities, it’s a win-win,” Schnepp-Giger said. “Some of these acquisitions are particularly special, though, because they provide that benefit on such a large scale, or in places that really need them. It’s impressive and something every hunter can be proud of.”



American martens could be reintroduced to Pennsylvania, and the draft plan that would guide their translocation and management is available for public review.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved release of the draft “American Marten Reintroduction and Management Plan for Pennsylvania,” a long-term, 10-year strategy to translocate the species back to the state, then conduct comprehensive monitoring to evaluate that reintroduction.

Important aspects of the plan include potential sources of martens, potential release locations and opportunities to work with partnering organizations. It also discusses methodology on capture, transport, health evaluations and release. Finally, the plan provides a timeline and cost estimate for the project.

The plan can be viewed at the Game Commission’s website, Comments about the plan can emailed to by Nov 15. 

The American marten (Martes americana) is a small furbearer. Martens weigh between 1 and 3 pounds and measure between 19 and 27 inches, making them the same size as adult mink or fox squirrel.

Martens were once commonly found in portions of Pennsylvania. They disappeared from the Commonwealth in the early 1900s, though, as a result of deforestation and unregulated harvest.

Research shows the potential for Pennsylvania to support them once again.

The Game Commission recently completed a Reintroduction Feasibility Assessment for American Martens. The assessment – which looked at current habitat suitability, future climatic impacts, interactions with other species and public opinion – found that martens would have sufficient habitat and pose little to no risk to other species.

Habitat suitability modeling, for example, shows that there is sufficient habitat within Pennsylvania for a marten population. Extensive research from across the marten’s range proves that most of their diet consists of small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews, as well as insects, and plants.

Much information about martens is available from the Game Commission at There are links to several maps, videos, webinars and the Feasibility Assessment.



“Ice-eaters,” which disturb water to melt ice and prevent ice formation, are popular among waterfowl hunters in states that allow their use – and Pennsylvania might be next.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would add “ice-eaters” to the list of approved electronic hunting devices. The measure is scheduled to be brought back to the January meeting for a final vote.

Electronic devices generally are prohibited for hunting in Pennsylvania. Over the years, however, several devices have been reviewed by the Game Commission and authorized for hunting use. When considering electronic devices, the Game Commission reviews to what degree their use might negatively impact the principles of resource conservation, equal opportunity, fair chase and public safety. The Game Commission has determined “ice-eater” use would have insignificant impacts on any of those principles.



In the past several years, the Game Commission has received an increasing number of complaints related to hunters using dogs to hunt coyotes during the regular deer and bear firearms seasons, resulting in both the intentional and unintentional pushing, driving or killing of deer and bears.

While it’s unlawful for any hunter to hunt deer or bear with dogs in Pennsylvania, and those doing so intentionally are in violation of the law, coyote dogs pushing deer or bears also pose potential problems for otherwise-lawful hunters in the same area, as well as interfere with lawful hunting by others.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would resolve those issues. The commissioners voted to prohibit the hunting of any furbearer through use of a dog during the overlap of any regular deer season or regular bear season. The measure is scheduled to be brought back to the January meeting for final consideration.

This proposal would not impact the in-season nighttime hunting of furbearers with dogs in weeks when the regular deer and bear firearms seasons are open. Because deer and bear hunting closes one-half hour after sunset, there is not a season overlap from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise the following day, when deer and bear hunting resumes on open days.



When deputy state game wardens find individuals in possession of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia on state game lands, they can file the appropriate charges.

But on properties enrolled in the Hunter Access Program – private lands where the Game Commission works with landowners to allow public hunting – deputies don’t have the same authority to enforce drug violations. Instead, a deputy must request assistance from a state game warden or police, and when those options aren’t available in a timely fashion, the violations might go unaddressed.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today took a step to change that, giving preliminary approval to a regulation that extends the drug-enforcement authority deputies now have on game lands to Hunter Access properties, too. The measure is slated to be brought back to the January meeting for a final vote.

State game wardens and deputies report they are encountering more drug violations on Hunter Access properties than ever before.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted to open the public comment period for updated draft plans that will guide the agency’s future management of the state’s black bears and snowshoe hares.

The plans can be viewed online at and comments on the plans can be submitted through Nov. 15. A summary of comments received, and any resulting revisions to the plan, will be presented to the Board of Commissioners before either plan is adopted.

The 2024-29 draft black bear management plan has been updated to consider recent research and includes a new goal to actively educate the public about bears.

Other goals in the plan are ensuring a sustainable black bear population, maintaining diverse forested habitats throughout the state for bears, ensuring human-bear conflicts are maintained at acceptable levels, and providing recreational opportunities that involve black bears.

The five-year span this plan covers allows for future updates to the plan to be incorporated relatively quickly, and future additions to be incorporated alongside them.

Comments on this plan can be sent by email to through Nov. 15.

The 2024-2033 draft snowshoe hare management plan sets out to maintain or increase snowshoe hare populations and hare habitat within Pennsylvania, which is at the southeastern edge of the snowshoe hare’s range and where populations might have contracted in recent decades. The plan includes a goal to annually provide hare harvest opportunities.

This is the Game Commission’s first-ever snowshoe hare management plan. Comments about it can be emailed to through Nov. 15.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted changes impacting the agency’s license-issuing agent program.

The Game Commission recently evaluated that program, partly because changes in how licenses are sold significantly have impacted issuing agents via reduced license sales opportunities and increased business costs. The goal of the assessment was to find ways to decrease costs and requirements for those license-selling partners.

That’s resulted in several changes.

Previous regulations – which predate the availability of internet sales and on-site, in-person license printing – set the annual issuing agent application fee at $500. The board reduced that to $200, a move that also eliminates the need for a rebate program that allowed new agents to recoup some of their first-year costs.

Previous regulations also required an issuing agent applicant to maintain an $18,000 bond, an amount that dates to a time when the Game Commission sent paper licenses to agents. The bond was intended to cover the value of that paper stock and license and permit fees collected by the agent.

The board reduced the annual bonding rate to $11,000 to better reflect the amount the agency might need to collect today.

Additionally, the board authorized reducing the annual minimum sales requirement from 50 to 25 license products per year per agent, while also allowing mentored hunting permits to be included in an agent’s sales figures.

And finally, the board eliminated the Nov. 1 to March 31 application window for issuing agent applications. Allowing applications year-round, something made easier by new technologies and processes, gives issuing agent applicants greater access without creating any unreasonable burdens on the Game Commission.



The black rail soon could be listed as a threatened species in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted preliminarily to reclassify this marsh bird as state-threatened. The measure will be brought back to the January meeting for final consideration.

Black rails are the smallest rail species in North America, and the most secretive in behavior and habitat. Although this species is considered uncommon in Pennsylvania, strong evidence indicates some black rails might have established territories or attempted to nest here.

In 2020, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified the eastern black rail subspecies (Laterallus jamaicensis jamaicensis) as threatened, and indicated up to five breeding pairs occurred in Pennsylvania at that time. Adding the black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis) to the Commonwealth’s list of threatened birds acknowledges the subspecies’ threatened status and small, sporadic state population.



At the close of today’s meeting, Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans took a moment to thank Northwest Region Director Rich Cramer for his service.

Cramer, a longtime game warden who began his service with Game Commission in 1991, continues to serve as Northwest Region Director, but has plans to retire Sept. 29.

“He’s been an amazing leader in an amazing region and I just want to thank him for what he’s done over the course of his career,” Burhans said.


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