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HARRISBURG, PA - JULY 28, 2016--The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met today in Harrrisburg. Meeting highlights follow.
AMENDED DRONE BAN ADOPTED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today took action to better protect wildlife from unnecessary disturbances on game lands and other property controlled by the Game Commission.
The board voted unanimously to prohibit on Game Commission-controlled property the operation, control, launching or retrieval of drones.
The recreational flying of drones rapidly has gained in popularity, and as it has, the number of cases where drones have caused concern for wildlife has increased as well.
During the snow-goose migration season at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this year, for instance, Game Commission staff detected at least five instances where drones disturbed wildlife. In one case, a drone was flown into an off-limits propagation area that serves as a sanctuary for resting waterfowl, and another disturbance caused hundreds of waterfowl to suddenly flush. There also were reports of drones being flown close to bald-eagle nests, which causes an obvious risk to eagles and their eggs.
Clearly, this type of activity runs counter to the intended use of properties like Middle Creek and other tracts of state game lands owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The Board of Game Commissioners in April gave preliminary approval to a proposal to ban the flying of unmanned aerial vehicles over lands or waters designated as state game lands. The measure was amended after a legal review by the state Attorney General’s office, which said only the federal government has the authority to regulate airspace.
The amended proposal, which was given final approval today, prohibits the operation, control, launching or retrieval of drones on game lands, unless a specific exception is approved in writing by the Game Commission’s executive director.
The ban is expected to take effect in the coming weeks, after a legal review of the regulation.
SUNDAY USE OF GAME COMMISSION RANGES COULD EXPAND
Shooting ranges on state game lands soon could be open longer on Sundays before and within the firearms deer and bear seasons.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that calls for ranges to remain open from 8 a.m. to sunset on the Sundays immediately preceding, and any Sundays throughout the duration of the firearms deer and firearms bear seasons.
The measure will be brought back to the September meeting for a final vote.
As it is now, shooting ranges on game lands, are open from noon to sunset each Sunday, except the Sundays immediately preceding the firearms deer and firearms bear seasons, when ranges are open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Regular Monday-through-Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to sunset.
Commissioners said the expansion of Sunday hours, while minor, creates a convenience for hunters who might find themselves pressed for time to adjust sights or scopes on firearms at the height of the hunting season.
The measure also strengthens safety provisions by prohibiting the possession or discharge of a loaded firearm anywhere on the range while another person is downrange.
Intentionally shooting at or damaging the frames or stands constructed to mount permanent target backboards also would be prohibited if the measure receives final approval.
COMMISSIONERS EMPHASIZE DEER CONTROL THROUGH HUNTING
Municipalities and other political subdivisions that request permits to manage deer populations will need to more strongly consider managing deer through hunting before gaining approval to use another method.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a series of amendments to the application process for special deer-control permits.
As part of the background information on deer populations and damage that permit applicants are required to submit, applicants will be asked to specifically define how licensed public hunting has been used in the problem area previously, and how it will be used during the period the permit would be valid.
Commissioners said the measure helps to ensure hunters have an opportunity to manage deer on properties where high deer populations have created problems.
Speaking for the board, President Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Glenolden, said keeping the Pennsylvania hunter as part of the process “always is No. 1 in our minds.”
DISABLED VETERANS’ HUNTS APPROVED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that allows the Game Commission’s executive director to designate one shooting day at each the Middle Creek and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Areas as open only to veterans with disabilities.
Participants will be selected by a random drawing, and only those who qualify for and possess a disabled veteran license can apply. Successful applicants who participate in the hunt will be permitted to bring along three guests, so long as they possess proper general or base hunting licenses.
Pymatuning will conduct a Veterans With Disabilities Hunt in the 2016-17 season, and Middle Creek is expected to conduct its first at a later time after pit blinds there are made wheelchair-accessible.
A date for the Pymatuning hunt will be announced at a later date. Applications for the Pymatuning hunt are available in the Goose Blind Application page in the 2016-17 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest. Only applications clipped from the digest may be used.
PORCUPINE RECLASSIFIED AS A FURBEARER
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to reclassifying the porcupine as a furbearer.
The change will allow for porcupines to be trapped, as well as hunted. A porcupine trapping season has not been implemented for the 2016-17 license year, and commissioners said previously one would be implemented in future seasons only if staff recommends a trapping season.
Jeff Grove, the local government affairs director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, on Monday addressed the commissioners and expressed the Farm Bureau’s support of the reclassification. Porcupines occasionally chew on and damage vehicle and equipment parts, especially in the winter when salt builds up on roads, and reclassifying them as furbearers will provide for additional control methods, he said.
Based on the proposal, license requirements for hunting and trapping of porcupines would mirror those for coyotes. Porcupines could be hunted by those possessing either a hunting or furtaker license, and could be trapped by furtakers, as well, during established seasons.
RESOLUTIONS MAKE STANCES CLEAR
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted two resolutions, taking formal stances on state and federal initiatives regarding wildlife management.
The board made formal its support for recent recommendations put forth by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. The panel is asking Congress to annually dedicate to the states and territories $1.3 billion of existing revenue from development of energy and mineral resources, with the money used to help thousands of fish and wildlife species in trouble.
The board further resolved to encourage state fish and wildlife agencies across the country to support the initiative.
The board also adopted a resolution opposing recently introduced House Bills 2083 and 1720, which call for a transition to separate antlered and antlerless deer seasons, and a switch to a controversial and untested method of white-tailed deer management known as maximum sustained yield.
The resolution notes the bills, neither of which has made it out of committee, would place decisions on deer-management in the hands of a few special-interest groups, and take hunters and trappers out of the process, even though they’d fund it.
The resolution also states concerns the bills would lead to the exponential increase of chronic wasting disease across the state, and the implementation of either bill would constitute an improper diversion of hunting and furtaker license dollars that would preclude the Game Commission from accessing federal Pittman-Robertson funds, a source of $24 million of revenue to the Game Commission in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Both resolutions passed unanimously.
COMMISSIONERS ANNOUNCE FUTURE MEETING DATES
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will reconvene at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters Monday, Aug. 29 at 8 a.m. for a working group meeting.
Working group meetings allow for an exchange between the Board of Game Commissioners and Game Commission staff ahead of the regular quarterly meetings. The meetings are open to the public, but public comments are not accepted.
The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners is scheduled to be held on Monday, Sept. 19 and Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters. Both meetings begin at 8:30 a.m.