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Saturday, July 4, 2015

PENNSYLVANIA COULD UP PENALTY FOR KILLING EAGLES


Commissioners give preliminary approval to $2,500 fine.



Those who kill golden and bald eagles could face stiffer penalties under Pennsylvania law.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would increase to $2,500 the replacement cost for killing bald eagles or golden eagles.

The bald eagle had been classified as a state-threatened species until early 2014 when, it was removed from the threatened list because its recovery met objectives outlined in the state’s bald-eagle management plan.

While golden and bald eagles both remain protected by federal and state law, the fact that neither bird was classified as threatened meant that killing a golden or bald eagle resulted at the state level in $200 in replacement cost. Replacement costs are restitution for unlawfully killed wildlife and typically are paid in addition to fines.

Commissioners said the $2,500 replacement cost emphasizes that although golden and bald eagles are recovered in Pennsylvania, they still require further protection.



MENTORED YOUTH HUNTERS COULD SEE RABBIT, DOVE OPPORTUNITIES

Preliminary vote would need final approval before becoming effective in 2016-17 license year.



Mentored Youth hunters could see opportunities in the 2016-17 license year, to begin about a year from now.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to measure that would add rabbits and mourning doves to the list of species mentored youth hunters may pursue.

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program was established in 2006 as a way to give youth under the age of 12 an opportunity to experience hunting in a tightly controlled setting under the close supervision of an adult mentor. The program has been successful and safe, and the list of species that can be pursued by mentored youth hunters has been expanded over the years.

In casting their preliminary vote, the commissioners pointed out that sporting organizations and other interested groups have continued to encourage the Game Commission to expand mentored youth hunting opportunities and, particularly, to add rabbits and mourning doves to the list approved for mentored youth.

If the measure gains final approval, mentored youth hunters still would need a migratory game bird license to hunt and harvest mourning doves.

Requiring the license would facilitate the Harvest Information Program (HIP), a cooperative state and federal program designed to improve the information collected regarding the harvest of migratory game birds. The license costs $3.70 for residents and a mentored youth permit costs $2.70.

The measure will be up for final approval in September.



CHANGES TO DMAP GAIN PRELIMINARY APPROVAL

Commissioners said they will continue to meet with public landowners in lead-up to final vote.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a proposal to make changes to the Deer Management Assistance Program, commonly known as DMAP.

In casting their votes, commissioners said they will continue to work with the public landowners that would be affected by the proposal, and that the proposal might be amended before final approval.

DMAP provides private and public landowners an additional tool to meet deer-management goals on their properties through hunting. Landowners who apply may receive a number of DMAP permits they then can issue to antlerless-deer hunters for use during open deer seasons. The number of permits a landowner receives often is based on a formula of one permit per 50 acres, and the allocation may be increased due to heavy deer impact.

The proposal that was tabled would have limited the size of DMAP units on public parcels to 15,000 acres, and would have required DMAP coupons for public parcels be allocated based upon current conditions relative to goals and objectives outlined in an approved management plan.

Commissioners noted that DMAP was designed specifically as a tool to deal with localized deer-impact issues rather than issues across a broader landscape, and added that hunters have expressed concerns DMAP might have too great an impact on deer herds, especially on state-owned lands. 

By limiting the size of DMAP units on public lands, deer can be managed at a more distinct local level, the commissioners have noted.

Commissioners said they will continue to discuss potential changes to DMAP with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and other public landowners, and they will take those discussions and additional public comments into consideration in casting their final vote.



HUNTERS COULD BE LIMITED TO ONE MIDDLE CREEK GOOSE PER SEASON

Proposed rules do not allow successful hunters to return.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a one-per-season limit on geese within the controlled goose hunting area at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, in the southeastern part of the state.

If given final approval, the change would take effect in the 2015-16 hunting season.

Hunters still will be selected by lottery to hunt from blinds within the controlled goose hunting area and, has been the case, each can harvest only one goose per day.

Previously, however, hunters who had been successful from a Middle Creek blind were able to reapply to hunt from an unclaimed blind later that same season, abiding by the controlled area’s daily bag limit of one goose. With the season limit within the controlled area now set at one goose per season, that no longer will be the case.

Hunter success rates in recent years have declined within the controlled goose hunting area due in part to declining resident goose populations, fewer migrant geese and higher harvest rates on geese in areas surrounding Middle Creek.

Implementing a season limit is among the changes aimed at increasing hunter success and resident goose populations. September season hunting is closed on State Game Lands 46, which includes Middle Creek.

The commissioners are scheduled for a final vote in September.



COMMISSIONERS UPDATE QUAIL RESTORATION PROGRAM

Progress being made on effort to establish bobwhite quail at Fort Indiantown Gap.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today provided an update on efforts to establish bobwhite quail populations to some areas with suitable habitat in Pennsylvania.

Commissioner Timothy Layton, who heads the board’s quail restoration committee, said there’s a good possibility a restoration effort will take place at Fort Indiantown Gap, a U.S. Army property in Lebanon County.

Layton said the habitat at Fort Indiantown Gap meets conditions recommended to establish quail populations, and officials there are willing to cooperate on a restoration initiative.

The Game Commission next will need to secure wild bobwhite quail that can be trapped in another state and transferred to Pennsylvania for release. Commissioner David Putnam, the board’s president, said he believes the chances are good of finding a partner in another state to provide wild quail.

Game Commission officials said the program will aim to establish a sustainable population, but not necessarily a huntable one. The northern bobwhite quail is native to Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania hunters continue to be provided with the opportunity to hunt and harvest bobwhite quail.

Scientists have determined, however, that it’s unlikely wild populations of bobwhite quail exist in Pennsylvania. Quail encountered in the wild in Pennsylvania most likely are birds that were raised in captivity. 

Officials said the primary motivation in restoring quail is to recognize its status as a heritage species.



BOARD TAKES POSITION ON LEGISLATION

Resolutions support early retirement for WCOs, ability to regulate semiautomatic hunting rifles.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today took formal positions on a pair of issues contained in proposed state legislation.

The board adopted one resolution supporting legislation that provides wildlife conservation officers the option of early retirement if certain criteria are met, and a second supporting legislation that would give the Pennsylvania Game Commission authority to regulate semiautomatic hunting rifles.

The subject of early retirement for WCOs is contained in legislation that’s soon to be introduced. As it is now, all other state law-enforcement officers, including waterways conservation officers working for the state Fish and Boat Commission, are given the option to retire after 20 years if they meet certain age requirements. WCOs must have 35 years of service, or turn 60, before retiring. The legislation, if approved, would provide equal treatment to all state law-enforcement officers.

We believe that our conservation officers deserve the same benefits,” the board resolved.

Meanwhile, several bills have been drafted regarding semiautomatic hunting rifles. Some of the bills identify the caliber of rifle that could be used or the species that could be hunted with the rifles.

The commissioners, in their resolution, expressed preference for legislation that would give the board authority to regulate semiautomatic rifles, which would provide them an opportunity to study and select from hunting opportunities that might be implemented.





DELMARVA FOX SQUIRREL TO BE CLASSIFIED AS EXTIRPATED IN PENNSYLVANIA

Species never appeared in Commonwealth in high numbers, and has been absent for years.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a proposal to classify the Delmarva fox squirrel as an extirpated species in Pennsylvania.

At the same time, the commissioners voted preliminarily to identify the Allegheny woodrat as a species separate from the eastern woodrat.

One of three subspecies of fox squirrels listed in Pennsylvania, the Delmarva fox squirrel currently is listed as a state-endangered species. The Delmarva fox squirrel was considered present historically, but only a very limited portion of southeastern Pennsylvania. A reintroduction attempted in 1989 occurred with no documented survival past one year.

Suitable habitat for the species within its historic range is nonexistent, and no documented individuals have been recorded in the 25 years since the reintroduction effort was undertaken.

The mammal technical committee, a scientific advisory committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, has voted to consider it as state extirpated, and to remove it from the list of state endangered mammals.

Across the species’ core range in coastal portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, it is considered stable and proposed to be removed from federal list of endangered species.

The second amendment updates the common name of the eastern woodrat in Pennsylvania to the Allegheny woodrat. Based upon genetic and morphological evidence, the eastern woodrat has been split into two species; the eastern and Allegheny woodrat.

Meanwhile, the Allegheny woodrat, which inhabits Pennsylvania, currently is considered a state-threatened species, but the Pennsylvania Code recognizes only the eastern woodrat, which is shown to be a separate subspecies. If the change is given final approval, the Allegheny woodrat would be placed on the state’s threatened species list.



GAME COMMISSION PUTS NEW STRATEGIC PLAN INTO PLACE

Plan for 2015-2020 had been reviewed by public.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved the Game Commission’s new strategic plan, which will carry the agency from the start of the 2015 fiscal year, through the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

The commissioners’ approval of the plan follows a period of public review and comment.

The strategic plan was developed in a collaborative approach with a focus on developing SMART goals; goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. By no means does the plan represent all of the inner workings of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Instead, the document outlines goals and challenges the Game Commission will focus on during the next five years to continue to improve the agency’s effectiveness. This strategic plan was developed through an interactive strategic planning process which sought input from all six regions, all six bureaus, and the Board of Commissioners. In total, five core goals were identified in the strategic plan: put wildlife first; improve wildlife habitat; follow sound business practices; serve the Pennsylvania public; and improve support for hunting and trapping.

The plan will be posted to the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.

 

BOARD WISHES DELANEY WELL

His term expired, James J. Delaney Jr. will continue to serve only if no replacement is named.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today bid farewell to Commissioner James J. Delaney Jr., whose term has expired.

A Wilkes-Barre resident, Delaney began his service on the board in April 2007 as the appointed commissioner from Region 7, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

There’s a possibility Delaney could remain on the board awhile longer. No new commissioner from Region 7 has been appointed. Still, at what could be his last meeting, Delaney’s fellow commissioners took the opportunity to thank him for his eight years of service and all that has been accomplished since.

Board president David Putnam pointed to the responsiveness to hunters and trappers Delaney exhibited during his tenure. For example, when a number of rabbit hunters in January made a case for lengthening the season, and biologists saw no issue with it, Delaney was there to see it through, Putnam said.

“He heard the sportsmen, championed the issue and got it through the system in 24 hours,” Putnam said of Delaney.

Delaney thanked the many people who had a part in his appointment as commissioner, his family, the 14 commissioner he served alongside, and all of the staff he worked with throughout the agency, including in the Northeast Region.

He called the Game Commission “the model wildlife agency with some of the most dedicated people I have ever met.”

He said during his time on the board, he strived to make Pennsylvania’s hunting heritage stronger, find the balance between the science of wildlife management and the hunters, trappers and other stakeholders the agency serves, and speak on behalf of the state’s small-game hunters.

“I think we have done some great things for small-game hunters the last eight years and I am thankful to the Board of Commissioners and executive staff for supporting those efforts,” Delaney said. “Hopefully this fall, I can get back to using my vacation days from my real job, hunting pheasants and grouse with by birddog Hunter.”



BOARD SAYS GOODBYE TO DUNN

Interim wildlife management director to retire in July.



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today thanked interim Wildlife Management Director John Dunn for his more than 30 years of service to the agency.

In addition to serving as interim director, Dunn had most recently headed the Game Management Division.

Commissioner James J. Delaney said he was particularly impressed by Dunn’s ability to step in to lead what is perhaps the busiest bureau within the Game Commission after former wildlife management director Cal DuBrock retired in July 2014.

“He picked up those additional responsibilities, and I don’t think he skipped a beat,” Delaney said of Dunn.

Dunn took the opportunity to thank those he worked with through the years, and remarked on the professionalism, dedication and cooperation of Game Commission employees.

“I wish you all success,” he said.

 

FUTURE MEETINGS SET

September commissioners meeting to be held in DuBois



The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners next will convene at a working group meeting to be held Aug. 10 in Harrisburg.

Working group meetings are informational sessions between Game Commission staff and the Board of Commissioners, and no official action is taken by the board at Working Group meetings. The meetings are open to the public, but there is no period for public comment.

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Commissioners is scheduled to be held Sept. 28 and 29 at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in DuBois.
The agenda for that meeting will be posted at the Game Commission’s website closer to the meeting date.

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