Thursday, January 22, 2015

State Game Lands Permit Proposal Removed From Agenda

The Pennsylvania Game Commission in Harrisburg, today announced that they have removed the controversial State Game Lands Permit Proposal from the agenda for the upcoming PGC Board meeting that begins Sunday.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 22, 2015
Release #003-15
 State Game Lands Permit Proposal Removed From Agenda

The News Release quotes President of The Board of Commissioners, Robert W. Schlemmer as saying, " the board received hundreds of public comments about the proposal and wants to allow more time to properly consult with hunters, conservation partners and elected officials about it".  To read the release in its' entirety click the above link.

Note that there is no guarantee that another attempt will not be made to bring these regulations or some other form of them to vote in the future. 



SNP CWD Plan Comment Period Extended-Meeting In Front Royal Tonight


Due to a glitch in communications I was not aware that the period for commenting on Shenandoah National Park's CWD Management Plan had been extended until this morning.  A public meeting will be held this evening  at the Warren County Community Center, 538 Villa Avenue in Front Royal, Va. Read about it in the Shenandoah National Park News release below:

This also extends the time for public comment until January 30, 2015.  The additional public meeting was scheduled and the comment period extended to address concerns by several landowners who own land adjacent to the park about the proposed CWD plan.

Shenandoah National Park Holds Additional Public Meeting and Reopens Comment Period for ChronicWasting Disease Management Plan 


 Date: January 7, 2015 In response to a request from several park neighbors, Shenandoah National Park will hold an additional public meeting on the park's proposed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) response plan.The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2015, at the Warren County Community Center, 538 Villa Avenue.Dr. Jenny Powers, National Park Service Wildlife Veterinarian and CWD expert, will make a presentation on the history and biology of the disease.Jim Schaberl, Shenandoah National Park Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources, will present the park's proposed plan.Park Superintendent Jim Northup will be available to answer questions. Experts from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will also be available to answer questions on CWD actions outside the park. Following the meeting, the park will reopen the comment period for eight days.

Shenandoah National Park management is proposing to amend the approved 2013Chronic Wasting Disease Detection/Assessment Plan, Shenandoah National Park to include response actions necessary to address chronic wasting disease (CWD) within five miles of or within the park. Although CWD has not been detected in the park, it has been documented approximately 12 miles from the park's northern boundary. The spread of the disease into the park appears imminent, and park staff has determined that a plan for managing the disease is needed. CWD is a serious, non-native disease which threatens deer populations, related natural resources, and visitor experiences at Shenandoah National Park. The proposed plan amendment calls for the lethal removal of deer within specific developed areas of Shenandoah National Park to reduce the likelihood of CWD establishment and decrease the disease's progression within the park.

The draft amendment/EA for this project has been prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A series of public meetings on this topic were held in November, and the public was given an opportunity to comment during a 30-day comment period which ended on December 10, 2014.With the addition of another meeting the public will now be able to comment again on the draft plan from January 22 until January 30, 2015.The draft plan is available for review and comment online at http:parkplanning.nps.gov/shencwd.Comments may also be sent to: Superintendent, Shenandoah National Park, Attn: CWD Response Amendment/EA, 3655 US Highway, 211 East, Luray, VA 22835.

For more information about Chronic Wasting Disease, please visit  http:wwww.nps.gov/shen/naturescience/cwd.htm.




Friday, January 16, 2015

PGC Considers Use Ban-Part II

The Future In Pennsylvania If Proposed Use Regulations Are Approved

First off I wish to thank Donna and Woody Meristem for their comments on yesterday's post.

Donna said, "Those who want to have their opinions heard can send comments to pgccomments@pa.gov to be shared with the board. However, do it quickly, as they meet on January 25. This would really affect photographers, bird watchers, hikers, and all nature lovers. Offer to pay for a non-hunting use permit, etc. Losing access to State Game Lands for nearly half the year would hurt many of us".

Woody Meristem's said, "A user fee to contribute to the management and acquisition of State Game Lands would be very appropriate. But to close SGLs to everyone but hunters and trappers for almost half the year is something else entirely".

"If the PGC wants to turn a horde of non-hunters into anti-hunters and as a bonus get a lot of additional land posted against hunting this is the way to do it. It's hard to think of a better way to get bad PR for the agency, but I'm sure they could come up with some if they tried".

I think both comments are right on the money.  Not only that but concerned citizens should make their thoughts known to their state senator and representative and the governor's office as well.
  
Remember this is the e-mail address to comment directly to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. pgccomments@pa.gov

Also I want to point out that Woody Meristem writes an excellent Blog, "In Forest and Field". He addresses conservation funding issues  In his November 30th article, "It's Time For A Change",    by pointing out that,"wildlife is a public resource that belongs to all the citizens of Pennsylvania whether they are hunters, non-hunters or anti-hunters".  I highly recommend that you check his blog out and be sure to read this timely and extremely important  post.

I submitted a comment today to the Pennsylvania Game Commission which is posted  in its' entirety below:

My Comment

I am writing to comment on the proposed rule changes to Code §§ 135.41 and the new Chapter 147, Subchapter AA.
I am commenting both from the standpoint of a private citizen and the perspective of a retired Game Lands Maintenance Supervisor, and DWCO. I have no problem with either buying a hunting license or paying a use fee of commensurate cost for the privilege of using State Game Lands. I do find it very distressing that the Commission would consider banning the presence of those not engaged in hunting from the game lands during the periods that the proposed regulation states.

From a law enforcement perspective it seems the thing would be a nightmare unless very specific definitions of unlawful behavior were formulated. Most objectionable is the "Hike on foot" part . Does the Commission seriously plan to make it illegal for one to walk on any game lands during the times in question unless they are hunting or trapping? If a properly licensed hunter fills their deer tag/tags will they still be allowed to enter game lands unless they are actively assisting someone in hunting? There is a lot that is not spelled out here--what if one is properly licensed, but hunts only in rifle deer season--will they be permitted to scout before season without being actively involved in hunting another species? If they have a valid hunting license, will they be arrested if they carry a camera and tripod instead of a hunting weapon?
While the game lands may have been mostly bought with hunting license dollars a lot has been contributed by groups such as the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and The Rocky Mountain Elk foundation so it is not all a one-way street. In addition it receives a very favorable deal on taxation of property with payment in lieu of taxes that if I understand correctly is generally less than tax rates on similar types of property. In addition hunters have the use of DCNR lands which are not paid for or maintained by hunting license dollars, yet it appears we want to repay this by severely restricting the ability of the general public to access game lands.

Has anyone stopped to consider the potential this has to damage the image of the Commission in the eyes of the general public?

I thank you for your consideration and for the opportunity to comment. I hope the Pennsylvania Game Commission will not follow the rash, draconian course of action that the proposal seems to set forth, but rather work together will all groups concerned for the benefit of wildlife and wild lands.

Sincerely,
Willard C. Hill

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

PGC Considers Banning Non-consumptive Users During Hunting Seasons

PGC To Consider Banning Foot Access During Hunting Seasons
The agenda for the January meeting of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is now available and it contains some disturbing news for non-consumptive users of state game lands.  I firmly support non-consumptive users contributing to the upkeep of the game lands by being required to have either a hunting license or a use permit of equivalent cost, but if this goes through as proposed everyone but hunters and trappers actually engaged in lawfully hunting will be banned from the game lands from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January and from the second Saturday in April until the last Saturday in May (Memorial Day inclusive), except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.

This differs from the agenda for the September meeting of the PGC in that foot travel was not listed as a activity to be regulated as best as I can tell.
Here is the proposed rule as published.  To read it on the PGC Website click Here. and then click on agenda which will give you the option to download the pdf document on the entire agenda for the January meeting.

BUREAU OF WILDLIFE HABITAT MANAGEMENT
PROPOSED RULE MAKING
A. Amend 58 Pa. Code §§ 135.41 and create Chapter 147, Subchapter AA.
Commentary: At the Board of Commissioners meeting conducted on June 10, 2014, the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management was directed to study the feasibility of the Game Commission enacting a permit requirement for all game lands secondary users who are not currently in possession of a valid hunting or furtaking license. At the Commissioner’s Working Group Meeting on August 11, 2014, a briefing and recommendation was presented by the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management to require the permit for those individuals that were utilizing designated trails on State Game Lands for the purpose of bicycling, horseback riding and snowmobiling. At the Commission Meeting on September 23, the proposed rulemaking was tabled to allow for additional input from Commission Staff. Based on those staff discussions and the public comments received and in order to manage the game lands for its intended uses, the following proposed rulemaking is being offered for Board consideration. This proposal allows the agency to disseminate information to the secondary users of game lands that do not purchase a hunting or furtaking license (and therefore do not receive the annual hunting and trapping digest) and to collect information from these individuals to further protect and enhance the primary purposes of hunting, trapping, and wildlife management on game lands.
CHAPTER 135. LANDS AND BUILDINGS
Subchapter C. STATE GAME LANDS
§ 135.41. State game lands.
* * * * *
(c) Additional prohibitions. In addition to the prohibitions contained in the act pertaining to State game lands and § 135.2, except with the written permission of the Director, it is unlawful to:
* * * * *
(5) [Ride] Hike on foot or ride a nonmotorized vehicle, conveyance or animal from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January, and [before 1p.m.] from the second Saturday in April through [the last Saturday in May] Memorial Day inclusive, except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.
* * * * *
(23) Ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on any lands or waters designated as State game lands, unless the person is in possession of a valid hunting or furtaker license or a valid SGL permit signed by its holder. This provision shall not be construed to apply to: (i) Persons 15 years of age or younger or up to one person accompanying another person in possession of a valid Pennsylvania hunting or furtaking license or a Commission-issued trail permit.
(ii) Persons using the Appalachian Trail, Laurel Highlands Trail, Horse-Shoe Trail, rails-to-trails or other trails on State game lands under current written agreement or other formal legal authorization permitting such use.
CHAPTER 147. SPECIAL PERMITS
Subchapter AA. STATE GAME LANDS TRAIL PERMIT
§ 147.1021. Purpose and scope.
This subchapter provides for trail permits to be issued to eligible persons to authorize their holders to ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands.
§ 147.1022. Eligibility and application.
(a) Trail permits will only be issued to persons 16 years of age or older who do not possess a valid Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker license.
(b) Applications for trail permits issued under this subchapter shall be made on a form provided by the Commission.
(c) Applications must include the name and contact information of the permit applicant.
(d) There is no fee for a trail permit.
§ 147.1023. Trail permit.
(a) A trail permit issued under this subchapter authorizes the permittee to ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands.
(b) Permittees shall utilize designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands in a manner consistent with applicable requirements, conditions and restrictions provided for in the act and §§ 135.2 and
135.41 (relating to unlawful actions and State game lands).
§ 147.687. Sunset clause.
The provisions of this subchapter shall become effective July 1, 2015 and shall expire and be rendered void on June 30, 2018, unless the Commission further authorizes their legal effectiveness prior to this termination date.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.