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Highlights from today's commissioners meeting

GAME COMMISSION INCREASES DONATION TO HUNTERS SHARING THE HARVEST

HARRISBURG, PA -The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted to increase the agency’s monetary donation to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, ensuring that hunters can continue to donate venison to the state’s hungry without having to pay deer-processing costs.

The board unanimously approved increasing to $55,000 the Game Commission’s 2019 donation to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. The Game Commission for several years has made annual $20,000 donations to the nonprofit organization that routes hunter-harvested ground venison to food banks and soup kitchens statewide, but Hunters Sharing the Harvest asked the board to consider increasing the contribution to offset the program’s rising costs.

Board of Game Commissioners President Timothy Layton said the increase, which was approved by unanimous vote, will go a long way to allow Hunters Sharing the Harvest to continue fulfilling its mission.

The program is more popular than ever, said John Plowman, executive director for Hunters Sharing the Harvest.

The state’s hunters in 2018 set a record with their donation of nearly 150,000 pounds of venison to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, Plowman said.



HEGINS-GRATZ VALLEY WILD PHEASANT RECOVERY AREA DISSOLVED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to dissolving the Hegins-Gratz Valley Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA), and adjusting the boundaries on the state’s two remaining WPRAs, based on recommendations within a final report by Game Commission staff about the WPRA project.

The Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA, which lies within Wildlife Management Unit 4E in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties, was established by the Game Commission in 2010. In 2011, 300 wild pheasants that had been trapped in the western United States were released there in hopes they would take hold and grow into a huntable population.

With few wild pheasants remaining in this WPRA, however, Game Commission staff conceded the goal would not be achieved.

The Game Commission’s ring-necked pheasant management plan calls for dissolving unsuccessful WPRAs so those areas can be reopened to pheasant releases and pheasant hunting. Pheasant releases are prohibited within WPRAs and permit-based youth-only pheasant hunts are permitted only if authorized by executive order of the Game Commission.

Meanwhile, the commissioners also voted to adjust the boundaries of the Central Susquehanna and Franklin County WPRAs, reducing the size of each WPRA to better represent existing populations of wild pheasants.

As part of the measure adopted by the commissioners, the March 1 through July 31 prohibition on dog-training within WPRAs also was lifted, due to the low likelihood of negative impacts from dog training on currently established pheasant populations.

The boundary changes to the Central Susquehanna and Franklin County WPRAs are as follows:

Central Susquehanna WPRA – Portions of WMU 4E in Northumberland, Montour and Columbia counties, bounded and described as follows: Beginning in the southwestern extent of the WPRA at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 180, proceed north on Interstate 180 for approximately 7.2 miles to the intersection of Hughes Road. The boundary follows Hughes Road east for 0.2 mile to Susquehanna Trail. Follow Susquehanna Trail south for 0.2 mile to Schmidt Road. Follow Schmidt Road for 1.6 miles to Miller Road. Follow Miller Road east for 1.1 miles to intersection of Hockey Hill Road. Go right on Hockey Hill Road then left onto Pugmore Lane. Follow Pugmore Lane for 0.7 mile to Harrison Road. The boundary follows Harrison Road south for 0.7 mile to Showers Road. Follow Showers Road for 1.2 miles east to intersection of Gearhart Road. Turn right on Gearhart Road and go south for 0.6 mile to the intersection of Hickory Road. The boundary follows Hickory Road east for 0.6 mile then left onto Mingle Road for 0.9 mile until rejoining Hickory Road for another 0.8 mile to the intersection of Muncy Exchange Road. The boundary follows Muncy Exchange Road south for 1.4 miles to bridge over the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek near the intersection of State Highway 44. The boundary follows the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek south for approximately 2.1 miles to the bridge on Arrowhead Road. The boundary follows Arrowhead Road west for 0.8 mile to the intersection of State Highway 54. Follow State Highway 54 south for 2.6 miles to the intersection of State Highway 254. Follow State Highway 254 west for 6.6 miles to the intersection of Interstate 80. Follow Interstate 80 west for 3.4 miles to the intersection of Interstate 180 and the point of origin.

Franklin County WPRA – That portion of WMUs 4A and 5A in Franklin County bounded and described as follows: Beginning at the town of Mercersburg at the intersection of PA Rt. 16 (N. Main St.) and Johnstons Ln., proceed 1.9 miles west on Johnstons Ln. At the intersection of Johnstons Ln. and Charlestown Rd., proceed 0.7 miles due west following the Montgomery/Peters Township lines to the top of Cove Mountain. Proceed south along the Montgomery/Warren Township lines following the spine of Cove Mountain 7.9 miles to its intersection with cleared gas line utility right-of-way. Proceed 4.3 miles northeast along utility right-of-way to its intersection with Blairs Valley Rd. Proceed 1 mile south on Blairs Valley Rd. to the intersection with Hunter Rd. Proceed 2.5 miles east on Hunter Rd. to the intersection with Rt. 75 (Fort Loudon Rd.). Proceed across Rt. 75 onto Garnes Rd. and follow 2.6 miles northeast to the intersection with Rt. 416 (Mercersburg Rd.). Proceed 2.4 miles north on Rt. 416 to the intersection with Rt. 16 (Buchanan Trail West). Proceed 2.7 miles northwest on Rt. 16 through the town of Mercersburg to the intersection with Johnstons Ln. at point of origin.



6.5 MM CREEDMOOR BECOMES LEGAL ROUND FOR ELK

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that permits the state’s elk hunters to use the 6.5 mm Creedmoor round and related .26 caliber firearms.

Previous regulations required elk hunters to use firearms that were .27 caliber or more, with bullets of at least 130 grains. But after a review, the Game Commission determined that increasingly popular firearms in the .26 caliber range provide adequate and commonly accepted kinetic energies to efficiently and ethically harvest elk.

The change allows use of .26 caliber firearms with bullets of 120 grains or more for elk hunting.



MEASURE MORE CLEARLY DEFINES SNARE LOCKS

Trappers now have more direct guidance on the types of locks that can be used on snares.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted a measure that requires snares used to capture beavers and otters to be equipped with approved locks, which already had been required for cable restraints used to capture foxes and coyotes.

Previously, the law required a snare be equipped with “a mechanical sliding metal release lock.”

The change, which was recommended by the Pennsylvania Trapper’s Association, intends to expand the number and types of locks available to trappers using snares, and create consistency in the legal lock requirements for cable restraints and snares.

The change also allows for use of cage or box traps for taking furbearers.

The approved cable-restraint locks that would also apply to snares are: the Reichart 180-Degree Reverse Bend Washer; Kaatz Relax-a-Lock; Berkshire 90-Degree Bend Washer; Micro Lock; BMI Slide Free Lock; and Penny Lock.

The list of approved locks is based on research conducted during the development of the Best Management Practices for Trapping in the United States.



DEER CONTROL PERMITS RECEIVE STRONGER PUBLIC HUNTING REQUIREMENTS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that requires applicants to provide proof of public hunting in seeking permits to conduct culls to manage deer in urbanized areas.

Political subdivisions, homeowners associations and nonprofit land-holding organizations are eligible to apply for permits, and these groups are required to use public hunting as a management tool to be considered for a permit.

The change requires them to report hunting activities on their properties in detail, verifying that hunters indeed had the first chance at helping to address deer problems.

Applicants now need to provide the name and CID numbers of all hunters on the property, as well as harvest information.



LAND DEALS ADD MORE THAN 200 ACRES TO STATE GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved the exchange of 10 acres of State Game Lands 217 in Lehigh County for 103 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 168 in Carbon County. It also reported a land purchase approved by notational vote on April 22, 2019, for 108.5 acres, and accepted land donations totaling about five acres. Combined, these transactions will add about 216 acres to agency’s state game lands holdings.

The largest of the donated tracts came in a ratified, donation contract with the York and Adams Beagle Club, which aims to safeguard its 264.87 acres from development, or subdivision, should future members fail to keep the beagle club and grounds currently found on the property active. If the club sustains its membership, it will retain the rights to use the land as a beagle club.

Founded in 1939, the York and Adams Beagle Club has a committed and active membership and is financially sound. Members intensively manage the property for rabbits by mowing grass fields, and maintaining interspaced hedgerows and woodlots bisected by mowed grass roads and trails.

“This club’s leadership has the foresight and desire to ensure the property will remain undeveloped and as wildlife habitat, should its membership dissolve or become unable to support the club,” noted Peter Sussenbach, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management Director. “It’s insurance that their founders’ vision and the hard work of generations of previous members is honored by guaranteeing the club’s land will continue to be managed as wildlife habitat.”

The club’s land holdings, in two tracts totaling 264.87 acres in Paradise and Jackson townships, York County, would revert to the Game Commission if the club disbands. Only after abandonment is confirmed through established conditions set forth by the contract, would the Game Commission assume ownership of the property. For now, the land remains a private beagle club.

Additionally, the board accepted a 3.78-acre land donation from Robert Bittel adjacent to State Game 180 in Blooming Grove Township, Pike County. The tract is within the Shohola Waterfowl Management Area Important Bird Area and has an oak-heath forest and lowbush and highbush blueberry understory.

The board also accepted William L. Kinter’s one-half interest in about 1.3 acres in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County. The property, an indenture into State Game Lands 276, is forested with oak, cherry and poplar.

The board also announced it had on April 26, 2019, purchased through real-estate auction for a bid of $475,000 three tracts totaling 108.5 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 81 in Dublin Township, Huntingdon County. The acquisition provides critical access into a detached, landlocked portion of State Game Lands 81 from Tannery Road (T-403). The property is mostly a mixed hardwood forest with redbud and dogwood in the understory. It also includes an 8-acre field.

The board also approved a land exchange with the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC) that exchanged 10 acres of State Game Lands 217 in Washington Township, Lehigh County to LGNC for 103 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 168 in Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County. The exchanges allows LGNC to consolidate its land holdings, while the agency will add a significant chunk of the Blue Mountain to its game lands.

In other action, the board announced that, by notational vote on May 7, 2019, it declined a gift of 22.86 acres in Snyder Township, Blair County, from the Estate of Gianni Blackbear. The decision was made after careful consideration and research, and because of the land’s location and restrictions placed on the property. The notational vote was required due to the time-sensitive Disclaimer of Interest deadline for the property that needed to be filed in Orphan’s Court by June 7, 2019.



ENERGY AGREEMENTS APPROVED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved two five-year and one 10-year non-surface agreements to develop natural gas and oil beneath three state game lands.

Snyder Brothers Inc., of Kittanning, would develop oil and natural gas reserves under a 10-year agreement beneath 452.3 acres on State Game Lands 247 in North Buffalo Township, Armstrong County. The agreement would result in a bonus payment of about $904,000, as well as future rental and royalty payments.

Snyder Brothers Inc. also would develop natural gas reserves beneath 95.81 acres of State Game Lands 287 in Boggs Township, Armstrong County. The agreement would result in a bonus payment of $383,240 for each well bore, as well as future royalty payments.

Southwest Energy Company, of Spring, Texas, would develop natural gas reserves beneath 4,224 acres of State Game Lands 35 in Great Bend and Oakland townships, Susquehanna County. The agreement would result in a two-year option to develop an additional 1,691 acres and a bonus payment of about $6,336,000, as well as future rental and royalty payments.

All bonus, rental and royalty payments will be added to the agency’s Game Fund.



FOX NAMED BOARD VICE PRESIDENT

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today reorganized, voting unanimously to appoint Commissioner Charlie Fox the board’s vice president.

Fox fills the position left vacant when former commissioner James Daley resigned.



BOARD RESOLUTION SUPPORTS IMPORTANT FUNDING FOR SPECIES IN PERIL

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a resolution supporting recent recommendations that Congress dedicate $1.3 billion in existing revenue annually to states and territories to diversify funding and management of all wildlife.

The resolution is as follows:

“WHEREAS Article 1 § 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provides for ‘ ... the preservations of the natural.. .. values of the environment’ as a birthright of every Pennsylvania citizen, including "generations yet to come"; and

WHEREAS the Title 34 § 103 of the Game and Wildlife Code provides ownership, jurisdiction, and control of game and wildlife to the PGC; and

WHEREAS, the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage Pennsylvania's 480 wild birds, wild mammals, and their habitats for current and future generations; and

WHEREAS the PGC does not receive revenue from the Pennsylvania General Fund; and

WHEREAS there is a recognized need to expand the dedicated and sustainable funding base for wildlife conservation in Pennsylvania and throughout the Nation; and

WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, made up of 26 business and conservation leaders, was tasked with recommending

a new funding mechanism to support state fish and wildlife conservation to ensure the sustainability of all fish and wildlife for current and future generations; and,

WHEREAS the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources has recommended that Congress dedicate to states and territories $1.3 billion annually to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program to diversify funding and management of all wildlife; and

WHEREAS, the Recovering America's Wildlife Act would fund recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources by making funds available for management of fish and wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need as determined by state fish and wildlife agencies in each state's Wildlife Action Plan; and

WHEREAS securing dedicated federal funding is likely to require a non-federal state match similar to that in place for the Pittman-Robertson; and

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED TO support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED TO that the PGC encourage other state fish & wildlife agencies throughout the country to do the same; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED TO support broadening non-federal dedicated funding mechanisms for wildlife conservation and implementation of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, and to serve as the state's 25 percent match, in the event that new dedicated federal funding is secured.”
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