PA Game Commission News & Notes

The latest news and notes from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

HUNTING-CAMP ROSTERS ALMOST GONE

The hunting-camp roster is about to become a thing of the past in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to remove the requirement for groups of five or more hunters who are members of a permanent camp to fill out paper rosters in duplicate and post one copy at the camp for at least 30 days following the close of any deer, bear or elk season. The change will be considered for final adoption in September.

Hunting parties for deer, bear and elk would remain unchanged at a maximum of 25 hunters.

COMMISSION OKs LEASE AGREEMENTS

Deals approved on State Game Lands 303 and 264.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday approved a lease agreement with Canonsburg-based Range Resources-Appalachia LLC for oil and gas rights beneath State Game Lands 303 in Jefferson Township, Washington County.
Range Resources has a strong, privately owned oil/gas lease position surrounding the game lands, and will use horizontal drilling to access the oil and gas reserve beneath the game lands. As a result, there will be no surface disturbance to the game lands.

As part of the agreement, Range Resources will make a one-time $352,625 bonus payment to the Game Commission, with the money to be used for the future purchase of wildlife habitats, lands or other uses incidental to hunting, furtaking or wildlife-resource management.

Range Resources also will pay a 20 percent royalty from all oil, gas and other liquids or condensates produced and sold from the proposed tract.

The commissioners also approved a lease agreement with two companies – Ladnar Inc. and Wiconisco Co. Inc., both of Hummelstown – to remove anthracite coal through deep-mining on three tracts of State Game Lands 264 in Dauphin County.

The leases are part of a settlement agreement to resolve a long-standing legal dispute concerning the ownership of more than 8,000 acres of mineral interests underlying and adjoining the game lands.

The initial terms of the proposed leases are 15 years, with the opportunity to extend for an additional 10 years if the producers are engaged in active mining at the time of the renewal.

The producers will each pay the Game Commission at a royalty rate of 5.5 percent of the then-current F.O.B. pit price per ton, or $2 per ton of coal – whichever is greater – for all the coal mined and removed from the leased areas. The producers also will be required to maintain a minimum production of 200 tons per month under each of the leases. Future rentals and royalties owed the commission will be debited first from an existing $298,880 royalty credit paid under previous leases, until this sum is exhausted and thereafter deposited directly into the Game Fund.

Surface disturbance will be limited to a maximum of 30 acres total. Post-mining land will be revegetated as
wildlife habitat.

In exchange for the leases, Ladnar and Wiconisco will convey all but 0.35 acres of their remaining interests in the surface and subsurface to the commission and settle all outstanding litigation.

SMALL TRACTS ADDED TO GAME LANDS

State Game Lands 333 and 80 to grow.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday approved the acquisition of two small parcels adjacent to state game lands.

State Game Lands 333 in Centre County will grow by about 2 ½ acres. The commissioners approved accepting the parcel, which is being donated by Benner Township. The township reserves the right to promote passive recreation on the parcel as described in the Spring Creek Canyon Master Plan. Possible uses on this parcels include wheelchair-accessible parking spaces, picnic tables and portable restroom facilities.

The Game Commission will not be responsible for any expenses relative to any of these improvements.

Additionally, State Game Lands 80 in Swatara Township, Lebanon County will grow by 2.35 acres.

Karen and Richard H. Light have agreed to sell the parcel, which is adjacent to the existing game lands, for a lump-sum payment of $2,500. Funds for the parcel are to be paid with third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on game lands due to previously approved projects. The tract is forested with mixed northern hardwoods.

COMMISSION REDEFINES ‘HYBRID’

Change mirrors federally amended language.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted Tuesday to change language in the Pennsylvania Code to align with recent changes to language in federal regulations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently amended its definition of the term “hybrid” to include any crossbred bird with at least one parent defined as a migratory bird. The previous definition required both parents to be defined as migratory birds, and created difficulties due to its inconsistency with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s longstanding interpretation that a “hybrid,” under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, could be defined as having one parent defined as a migratory bird.

The amendment adopted by the commissioners serves to update the Pennsylvania Code, which cites the federal regulations that recently were amended. The amended term applies to Chapter 147 (Special Permits) and Subchapter F (Falconry) of Title 58.

EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES OFFICIALLY A GAME BIRD

Non-native species can be counted toward mourning dove bag limit.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday gave final approval to measure that will place the Eurasian collared dove on the state’s list of game birds.

The Eurasian collared dove isn’t native to Pennsylvania, but it’s turning up in the state in larger and larger numbers.

And, especially while in flight, the bird has few characteristics that distinguish it from the mourning dove.
Dove hunters won’t need to make a distinction between the two when they head afield in the coming license year.
While the Eurasian collared dove is an introduced invasive species, it must be classified as a game bird in order to establish a hunting season for its take. Game Commission staff recommended the collared dove’s classification as a game bird as a way to better protect the mourning dove. If the collared dove was classified as an exotic species and subjected to taking year-round, it could lead to mistake kills of mourning doves, staff said.
As a game bird, the Eurasian collared dove can be hunted with a general hunting license and migratory bird license, and collared doves taken can be counted as part of the bag limit for mourning doves.

COMMISSIONERS DISCUSS POTENTIAL INITIATIVES

Board will explore idea for a game-lands use permit.

Near the end of its meeting Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners discussed some new initiatives that will be revisited in the coming months.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, from Region 8 in southeastern Pennsylvania, suggested studying the viability and potential value of creating a permit that would be required for those who use state game lands, but don’t hold a valid hunting of furtaker license.

Many states have created similar permits, and the Game Commission a few years ago created a permit to use the shooting ranges on state game lands. While the idea of a game-lands use permit is only being discussed at this point, the permit would not be needed for anyone with a valid hunting or furtaker license. Those who purchase a hunting or furtaker license would continue to be able to use game lands as they’re permitted now.

The permit would apply to use of game lands by those who don’t possess licenses. At present, non-hunting and non-trapping uses of game lands are permitted, but are restricted during hunting seasons. Even if the game-lands use permit is created and required for those who don’t hunt or trap, those restrictions would continue, Hoover said.
The state game lands system includes more than 1.4 million acres statewide that were purchased through the sale of hunting and furtaker licenses, and from revenue generated from things like timber sales and energy leases on game lands.

Commissioner David Putnam, from Region 3 in the northcentral part of the state, gave a brief update on a proposed study of predator impacts on deer. The commissioners at the May working group meeting were presented with a study proposal. The projected cost of the proposed five-year study is $3.9 million.
Putnam said Game Commission representatives soon will be meeting with wildlife-management specialists from other states to discuss the study. That discussion could generate valuable insight into the study proposal that will help to determine the next step, he said.

On an unrelated topic, Putnam said the Game Commission has received only one comment in opposition to the potential expansion of electronic calls for hunting, and that comment opposed the idea of electronic calls being used in turkey hunting.

Commissioner Jay Delaney from Region 7 in northeastern Pennsylvania, requested updates on the Game Commission’s pheasant propagation, as well as the Franklin County Wild Pheasant Recovery Area be provided at the August working group meeting.

Additionally, it was announced the regular quarterly commissioners meeting in September again will be held in Delmont, Pa. The meeting is scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23.

DUBROCK HONORED BY GAME COMMISSION

Wildlife management director retiring Aug. 1

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners and Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, took time at Tuesday’s meeting to honor Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Calvin W. DuBrock, who is retiring Aug. 1.

DuBrock was presented with a framed art print and, in offering comments following the presentation, he said he is proud of the Game Commission’s accomplishments during his 32-year tenure. DuBrock said that in 1987, when he moved from a previous post to begin work with the Bureau of Wildlife Management, there were a total of about 12 full-time biologists in the agency. Today, there are almost that many working within the Wildlife Diversity Division, he said. DuBrock gave credit to the administration, including current and previous executive directors and boards of commissioners for effecting positive change.

And he said he expects the progression to continue in his absence.

“I look forward to this agency continuing to serve the people in the Commonwealth,” DuBrock said. “I look forward to this agency continuing to advance wildlife conservation.”

AWARDS PRESENTED, FUNDS DONATED

Game Commission honors elk conservationist, makes donation the Hunters Sharing the Harvest

The Pennsylvania State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) at Monday’s meeting presented awards to two Game Commission officers.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Brian Singer, who serves Westmoreland County, was named the Wildlife Officer of the Year. In presenting the award Howard Myers of the federation noted Singer’s work with schools in his area, his dedication to research and his work with members of the local media. Singer also tallied more than 200 arrests last year.

Game Commission Deputy Executive Director Rich Palmer also noted Singer also was named the North East Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs Association Officer of the Year.

Meanwhile, the NWTF named Game Commission Land Management Group Supervisor Colleen Shannon the Land Management Officer of the Year. In presenting the award, Myers noted the more than 1,100 acres of food plots on lands Shannon supervises, as well as her work to restore abandoned mines and her cooperation with natural-gas companies.

The Game Commission also presented an award recognizing Ralph Harrison, one of the foremost experts on the history of
Pennsylvania’s elk. A native of Dents Run in Elk County, Harrison authored A History of Pennsylvania Elk Country. In presenting the award, Game Commission videographer Hal Korber said Harrison’s cooperation in two Game Commission-produced films on Pennsylvania elk was instrumental to their success.

“Ralph did a wonderful job and we couldn’t have produced the in-depth history without his experience and knowledge,” Korber said.

The award recognizes Harrison’s lifetime of conservation work and dedication to Pennsylvania’s elk.

Harrison said he was humbled and honored to receive the award.

The Game Commission at Monday’s meeting also presented a $20,000 check to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, an organization that coordinates with butcher shops statewide to make it easy for hunters to donate venison to food banks that feed the state’s hungry.

The Game Commission hopes the money will spur more venison donations. All venison donated through Hunters Sharing the Harvest must be processed by a professional butcher, and hunters donating to the program often were required to pay a fee to offset the processing costs.

The $20,000 from the Game Commission is intended to cover those costs, making it free for hunters to donate.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the Game Commission hopes the donation will help Hunters Sharing the Harvest to reach its goal of providing to those in need 100,000 pounds of donated venison this year.


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