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Commission Controversies

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but we live in a country full of all kinds of controversy — especially in the realm of politics. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of controversy within the ranks of the outdoor community. Maybe it’s always been that way, but now that I am at a “more mature” age, maybe I just pay a lot more attention to what’s going on both in politics and the outdoor world. I don’t have room to get into all the details, but I would at least like to bring some controversial outdoor issues to your attention.

Let’s first take a look at what’s going on with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. They, like the Pennsylvania Game Commission, have been asking for a license fee increase for several years now. Our commissions are two separate agencies that run independently of each other. Yeah, I know — we are the only state in the country that still has two independent agencies and, personally, I would like it to stay that way. It seems, however, that some lawmakers are unwilling to grant the Fish and Boat Commission an increase since they are not yet ready to do the same for the Game Commission; they’re two separate agencies — right?

Nobody wants to see their taxes or any other fees go up, but as a small business owner myself, I have had price increases handed down to me when I purchase much-needed materials and, in order to survive, I must pass at least some of those increases on to the customer. Our commissions are also businesses, and in the case of Fish and Boat Commission, they have not had a license fee increase since 2004 — license fees basically are what funds the commission not taxes.

In an attempt to shave $2 million from the budget, John Arway, the Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, suggested the possibility of closing the Oswayo trout hatchery and cutting 240,000 trout from the stocking schedule. Some lawmakers quickly responded by introducing a bill that would limit the term of the Executive Director to eight years — Arway’s eight years will be up in March. Interesting isn’t it that lawmakers haven’t voted on term limits for themselves, but they want to limit Arway’s term. While the bill quickly passed the Senate, that may be as far as it gets — we will be watching to see what happens.

On the Game Commission side the, “there’s no deer left in Pennsylvania crowd” recently bought a couple of full-page ads in the Pennsylvania Outdoor News publication asking outdoorsmen to sign a petition to “return abundant wildlife to Pennsylvania”. They want outdoorsmen to support House Bill 1483, which would change how, we presently manage game — especially deer — and make the commission more accountable to the Legislature. The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania support the bill, while the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs opposes the move. The Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Deer Alliance, and Safari Club International — all national groups — oppose the bill also.

The “ there’s no deer left in Pennsylvania” controversy has been going on for a long time now, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Maybe what some of these hunters want is a “Pennsylvania Deer Commission” — forget the rest of the wildlife and game, just put as many deer as possible in the woods for us to hunt. Are there places in Pennsylvania that have less deer roaming around now than in years past? I’m sure there are, but I have a hard time believing that we lack deer in this state — especially since my wife and I must be extremely vigilant driving seven miles into town and back. We see deer day and night in fields along the highway. This past week, I drove east on Interstate 80 to New York City; I counted over 30 dead deer along the highway and how many more didn’t I see? I assume there were another 30 in the westbound lane on the way back. Deer hunting here can’t be all that bad since I’m seeing plenty of photos of some of the biggest bucks I have ever seen in this state, and any other, for that matter.

There are those who say don’t raise license fees, instead, cut salaries and benefits — good luck trying to make that happen. One thing I do know, I don’t want politicians having any additional control over how we regulate our deer herd.

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