PGC Board discusses changes at last meeting
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, in compliance with state guidelines to minimize the effects of COVID-19, met late last month in an online format that was open for the public to follow live. Meeting highlights appear below.
Regulations better address wildlife
Diseases that threaten Pennsylvania’s wildlife populations will be able to be met head-on through a regulatory change given preliminary approval today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.
Noting the emergence of wildlife diseases such as rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), which is having damaging effects in the southwestern United States, the board unanimously approved amending a section of Pennsylvania Code to expand the Game Commission’s ability to address wildlife diseases through executive order. Presently, the Game Commission is permitted to address chronic wasting disease (CWD) by executive order. The amendment would enable other diseases to be addressed in this manner as well, if needed.
“As we have seen with wildlife diseases such as CWD in deer, West Nile virus in grouse, and white-nose syndrome in bats, disease impacts on wildlife populations can occur quickly and to a severe degree,” said board President Charlie Fox. “While the Game Commission has the authority to quickly step in to confront new or growing CWD issues, other diseases also are of concern and, at times, the ability to act immediately could make a meaningful difference for wildlife.”
Further changes to CWD-specific regulations also were given preliminary approval. The term “Established Area,” which is contained within the agency’s new CWD Response Plan, has been preliminarily included in regulatory language. High-risk deer parts, including the head and backbone, may not be removed from the Established Area.
The amended regulations will be brought back to a future board meeting for final approval.
ANTLERLESS DEER LICENSE APPLICATION PROCESS REVIEWED
Pennsylvania Game Commission staff today appeared before the Board of Commissioners to deliver a report on the application process for antlerless deer licenses.
While the existing process is required by state law, and can’t be changed by the Game Commission unless the General Assembly first passes legislation that amends the law, the commissioners asked staff in July to proactively review the process.
Existing state law requires that antlerless deer licenses be issued by county treasurers.
Game Commission staff determined the existing automated license system used by the agency is capable of issuing antlerless licenses, either on a first-come, first-serve basis, or through lottery. Staff identified its preferred option is selling antlerless deer licenses on a first-come, first-serve basis, and identified a procedure and plan for implementing this process. The Commission will now continue to work with the General Assembly on amending Title 34 to allow for modernization of the antlerless license sale process.
REGULATIONS REGARDING DAMAGE BY CANADA GEESE CHANGE
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that would pull state regulations into line with recently changed federal guidelines that provide farmers and other landowners additional time to address problems from resident Canada geese.
Landowners properly registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously were allowed to destroy Canada goose nests and eggs on their properties from March through June, and properly permitted agricultural producers could kill small numbers of adult geese causing crop damage from May through August.
The adopted changes would allow the year-round take of nests and eggs, and expand the period during which the take for agricultural depredation is allowable to April through August.
Other registration and permitting requirements for both types of control activities remain unchanged.
Game Commission staff said incorporating the federal changes into state regulations isn’t expected to greatly increase the taking of Canada geese by permit, and little or no impact on overall goose populations is anticipated.
MORE THAN 430 ACRES COULD BE ADDED TO GAME LANDS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a host of land acquisitions that would add more than 430 acres to state game lands.
The approved acquisitions are:
• The acquisition of more than 213 acres to be added to State Game Lands 170 in Perry and Cumberland counties. The land would be purchased from The Nature Conservancy for a $213,000 lump-sum option price to be paid from third-party commitments to compensate for habitat and recreational losses on state game lands from previously approved projects. The land to be acquired is made up of five parcels – three of them adjoining State Game Lands 170 in Penn Township, Perry County, and two of them south of the game lands in East Pennsboro and Hampden townships, Cumberland County.
• The acquisition by donation of 139 acres adjoining State Game Lands 219 in Warren Township, Bradford County. The property would be donated by The Conservation Fund, which is acquiring it with funding provided by Williams Companies for voluntary mitigation as a result of impacts associated with the Constitution Pipeline project in Susquehanna County.
• The acquisition by donation of 75 acres adjoining State Game Lands 55 in North Centre Township, Columbia County. Regency Marcellus Shale Gathering LLC offered to donate the land as replacement habitat to mitigate for lost wildlife resources and recreational opportunities associated with natural gas pipeline construction and maintenance on State Game Lands 12 in Sullivan and Bradford counties.
• The acquisition of 2.67 acres adjoining State Game Lands 156 in South Lebanon Township, Lebanon County, through donation from the estate of Daniel R. Blouch.
• The acquisition by donation of 0.36 acres in Wiconisco Township, Dauphin County. The parcel is fully surrounded by State Game Lands 264 and would be added to the game lands. This tract previously was offered by Ladnar Inc., but after an examination of Ladnar’s title, it was determined Dauphin County also might have an interest in the land. Therefore, Dauphin County has offered to donate any interest it might have in the land.