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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

GAME COMMISSION CANCELS 2016 GAME LANDS TOURS

Director: Difficult decision necessary in tough financial environment.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s autumn driving tours, which provide a scenic glimpse of all that state game lands have to offer, have been canceled this year due to financial constraints.

The tours, which have provided the public an opportunity to interact with Game Commission personnel directly responsible for managing and protecting game lands, have proven popular. Some tours, like the 17-mile tour through State Game Lands 211 in Dauphin and Lebanon counties, or the 28-mile circular tour through State Game Lands 12 in Bradford County, regularly attract thousands of people each year.

While the tours are free to participants, they come at a cost to the Game Commission, which incurs personnel costs associated with planning, preparing for and hosting the tours.

And in lean financial times for the agency, the Game Commission has opted to forgo this year’s tours, Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said.

“It’s a tough decision because we feel there’s a big benefit to hosting these tours and teaching people more about Pennsylvania’s wildlife, habitat and state game lands,” Hough said. “We know those people who were looking forward to taking tours this fall will be disappointed by the news they’ve been canceled. But in our current financial climate, the Game Commission must continue to look for ways to cut costs where it can.”

Unlike most state agencies, the Game Commission does not receive an allocation from the state’s general fund. The agency is funded primarily by hunters and trappers, either through the purchase of their licenses, the agency’s share of the federal excise tax collected on the sporting arms and ammunition, and from revenue derived from the 1.5 million-acre state game lands system hunters, trappers and others have helped assemble over the years.

Pennsylvania’s hunter ranks continue to be strong. The Keystone State leads the nation in hunting and furtaker licenses and permits sold.

But it’s been more than 17 years since the state General Assembly last approved an increase in hunting and furtaker license fees. And without an adjustment for inflation, the agency’s revenue stream cannot continue to fund the same services it has, Hough said.

The Game Commission also has laid off full-time workers and part-time staff, placed construction projects indefinitely on hold, put a freeze on equipment purchases and held off on recruiting a new class of wildlife conservation officers.

“We regret having to make any of these cuts because they negatively impact wildlife, the agency and the citizens it serves,” Hough said. “But decreasing personnel and services are the only ways the Game Commission can reduce costs to make the same license-fee dollar stretch to cover expenses that have increased rapidly due to inflation.

“Moving forward, we are optimistic a license-fee increase will be approved, restoring the revenue the Game Commission needs to carry out its mission,” Hough said. “We ask our hunters and trappers to contact their legislators and make known their support for Senate Bill 1166, which would enable the Game Commission to set its own license fees, removing the sticker shock that results from large, long-overdue increases that haven’t kept up with inflation. It’s what Pennsylvania needs for wildlife, habitat and our hunting and trapping heritage.”

4 comments :

Anonymous said...

If thousands normally attend these tours why not charge a fee, unless you can provide proof that you contribute thru the purchase of hunting or trapping license. As a hunter I'm tired of footing the PAGC bills and non hunters have a free ride to use these lands.

Anonymous said...

So what is the "current financial climate" and what caused it? Poor management? Drop in participation? Spike in expenses?
Where is all the money from increased license fees going? Or the revenue from oil and gas on gamelands property?
Sounds like the game commission needs a BIG shake-up in management and operating procedures.
Maybe the game commission operations should be contracted out to private industry , which would do a much better job as always.

Knitter said...

6:46 This year the chamber of commerce held a hike on National Trail Day on game lands. We had 10 people attend and had to pay a fee to walk on the trail. No one from the game commission led or showed up for the event. So people do pay if they are not hunting on the land.

Anonymous said...

Bet the monies didn't go to the game commission but rather to the chamber of Commerce