Pa., Board of Game Commissioners Elects Isabella President
HARRISBURG, Pa – -(OutDoorWire.com)- The Board of Game Commissioners today elected new officers during its annual reorganization for 2009.
Game Commissioner Gregory J. Isabella, of Philadelphia, was elected president. First appointed to a full eight-year term on the Board in 2003, Isabella was elected vice-president in 2008. He also was elected to serve as board secretary in 2006, and re-elected to this post in 2007.
Game Commissioner James “Jay” Delaney Jr., of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, was elected vice-president. First appointed to the Board in 2007, Delaney was elected secretary in 2008.
Game Commissioner Ronald Weaner, of Biglerville, Adams County, was elected secretary. Weaner was first appointed to the Board in 2008.
Other Game Commissioners are: Russell E. Schleiden, Centre Hall, Centre County; Roxane S. Palone, of Waynesburg, Greene County; Thomas E. Boop, Sunbury, Northumberland County; and David W. Schreffler, Everett, Bedford County.
Game Commissioners are nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate to serve an eight-year term. They receive no salary, but are reimbursed for expenses to attend Game Commission quarterly meetings and other functions.
BOARD TAKES STEPS TO PROTECT WILDLIFE
The Board of Game Commissioners today took a preliminary step to establish replacement costs that may be assessed on those convicted of illegally killing wildlife in Pennsylvania. If approved by the Board at its April meeting, regulations would specify replacement values for certain species illegally killed.
Under the proposal, a judge would be able to assess anyone convicted of illegally killing the following species a replacement cost of: $5,000 for any endangered or threatened species; $1,500 for an elk or bear; $800 for a deer; $500 for a bobcat or river otter; $300 for a wild turkey or beaver; and $200 for any other wildlife.
Additionally, if the following big game species were a “trophy class animal,” judges would be able to require a replacement cost of $5,000 for an elk with a minimum Boone & Crockett green score of 200 points; a deer with a minimum Boone & Crockett green score of 115; or a bear with a field-dressed weight of more than 350 pounds.
“These replacement costs would be on top of those fines and penalties already specified in the Game and Wildlife Code, which may only be changed by the state Legislature,” said Rich Palmer, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection director. “In addition to this action by the Board, we are, once again, asking the General Assembly to consider legislation that would increase the fines and penalties for poaching.”
Palmer noted that increasing penalties for serious violations is one of the operational objectives in the Game Commission's Strategic Plan.
For more information on the Game Commission's previous testimony on legislation to increase fines and penalties, please see News Release #015-08 in the “News Release” archives on the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).
BOARD TAKES STEPS TO PREPARE FOR ELECTRONIC LICENSE SALES
To make the agency's license sales system more customer friendly, the Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a slate of regulatory changes to pave the way for a point-of-sale (POS) electronic license sales system beginning with the 2009-10 license year.
The package had received preliminary approval by the Board at its meeting on Jan. 29, 2008. However, as a result of delays with implementing the point-of-sale system, final approval of the package was postponed until this meeting. Last week, the agency announced that the agency was taking final steps this week to fully implement its electronic license sale system, commonly referred to as “point-of-sale.” (For more information, please see “News Release #008-09” in the “News Release” section of the agency's homepage www.pgc.state.pa.us.)
The Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have been working to replace their respective paper-based licensing systems with a common computer-based automated licensing system.
“Implementing this computerized POS licensing system within Pennsylvania will significantly streamline the application and purchase process for customers, virtually eliminate manual auditing and reporting for agents, and provide opportunities for the Game Commission to monitor license administration,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “In addition, the data from the POS licensing system will enable the agency to monitor license sales, create strategic business plans based on trend analysis and, most importantly, create marketing plans based on more accurate customer demographics.
“To move the process to the next level, there are various regulatory provisions that must be amended to accommodate the POS licensing system prior to it becoming operational.”
One of the key benefits of POS will be the issuing of a permanent, unique customer identification number. Once implemented, this provision will eliminate the need for license buyers to provide their Social Security number beyond the first year of the individual purchasing a license.
License buyers will swipe their driver's license through a magnetic reader – similar to an automatic teller machine at a bank – that will insert into the online application all current personal data, such as name, address and date of birth. The customer will then choose the licenses desired. Once payment is made, all purchased licenses, as well as big game harvest tags, will be printed on a waterproof, tear-resistant material.
By state law, antlerless deer licenses will continue to be sold only by county treasurers, so hunters will need to prepare and mail separate applications for antlerless deer licenses. However, under POS, the system will be modified to the benefit of hunters and county treasurers.
As county treasurers will be set up with POS, hunters will be able to submit an application to any county treasurer, and the application will list the hunter's first three choices, in order of preference, for a specific Wildlife Management Unit antlerless deer license. If an applicant's first choice of WMU has exhausted its allocation of antlerless deer licenses, the county treasurer will move to the second preference – and third, if necessary.
“This new process will nearly eliminate the chance that a hunter will not be able to receive at least one antlerless deer license during the processing of regular antlerless deer licenses,” Roe said. “Also, we have proposed to move up the beginning of the application period, which will ensure that county treasurers will have mailed back to hunters all antlerless deer licenses prior to the opening of the archery season.”
Under the new timeline, residents will apply for regular antlerless deer licenses on the second Monday in July (rather than the first Monday in August); nonresidents will apply for regular antlerless deer licenses on the last Monday in July (rather than the third Monday in August); residents and nonresidents will apply for the first round of unsold antlerless deer licenses on the first Monday in August (rather than the fourth Monday in August); and residents and nonresidents will apply for the second round of unsold antlerless deer licenses on the third Monday in August (rather than the second Monday in September).
County treasurers will have to mail regular and first round of unsold antlerless deer licenses no later than the second Monday in September, and second round of unsold antlerless deer licenses no later than the fourth Monday in September.
Beginning the fourth Monday in August, county treasurers will begin accepting applications over the counter for designated WMUs (2B, 5C and 5D), and may immediately issue antlerless deer licenses.
Other benefits from the implementation of POS are:
- Hunters who attempt to submit more than one antlerless deer license application per round will be prevented from doing so as the electronic license system will catch multiple applications being processed;
- Those interested in submitting an application for the bobcat permit and elk license drawing may do this when they purchase their licenses rather than having to submit separate applications via the mail;
- Hunters can process their Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer coupons for permits rather than having to wait for permits to be mailed. DMAP antlerless deer permit replacements will cost $6;
- Those interested in purchasing a second spring gobbler license can do so at the time of purchase rather than waiting until after January 1; and
- Hunters will be able to submit big game harvest reports via the Internet, as the agency will finally have a method in place to validate harvest report submissions with license sales information.
Each issuing agent will receive one POS system, and be able to lease a second if necessary. Other benefits to issuing agents include reduced time to maintain security of licenses and sales books; streamlined reporting of license sales; and a self-auditing system.
All license sales information will be reported directly via the POS, and all license fees will be electronically transferred into the Game Fund on a weekly basis.
AGENCY TO GATHER DATA ON MENTORED YOUTH HUNTING PROGRAM
The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, first implemented by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners in 2006, will continue for the 2009-10 seasons and, thanks to the agency's launch of its electronic license sale system, will begin gathering data about the level of participation in the program.
For 2009-10, the list of eligible game for those youth under the age of 12 participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program is squirrel, woodchuck (groundhog), coyote, spring gobbler and antlered deer. Mentored youth can participate in both the junior-only seasons for squirrels and spring gobbler, as well as the general seasons for all five species.
New this year, however, is the requirement that mentors will need to first obtain a permit for each youth they plan to take under their wing. The permit, which can be obtained from any issuing agent, will include official big game tags for antlered deer and spring gobblers. The permit will cost $1, which goes to the Game Commission, plus any issuing agent or vendor fees.
“When we first started the MYHP, we didn't require a permit because there was no method available to issue a permit without creating an enormous obstacle for participants,” said Carl G. Roe, agency executive director. “With the full roll-out of our electronic license sale system ready for the 2009-10 license year, we can provide a method for adult mentors to enable youth to obtain a permit without too many difficulties.
“By implementing the permit for the MYHP, we will be able to start gathering data about the level of participation in this program, which can be used to assist in better planning and scheduling our basic Hunter-Trapper Education courses. This database of MYHP participants will let us know how many young hunters are approaching 11 years of age, and where they live, so that we can make sure the number of courses we are offering will meet the expected demand.”
Currently, the agency has used its annual Game-Take Survey to estimate the level of participation in the MYHP. According to the agency's annual Game-Take Surveys, participation in the MYHP has increased in terms of adult mentors and youths. In 2006, the first year of the program, 43,780 youths were mentored by 32,913 adults. That year, the mentored youths harvested 52,788 squirrels and 36,351 woodchucks. In 2007, the number of mentored youth grew to 58,883, and there were 51,141 adult mentors. That year, mentored youths harvested 61,160 squirrels, 52,114 groundhogs, 5,199 antlered deer and 3,496 spring gobblers.
Youths participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is two or more points on one antler or one antler three or more inches in length. Mentored youth may only pursue antlered deer, and may only participate in seasons in which antlered deer are legal and must follow appropriate sporting arm restrictions.
The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or wild turkey taken. Mentored youth also must follow the sporting arm restrictions for the season they are participating in, as well. For example, if the mentor and mentored youth are participating in the late flintlock season for antlered deer, they must use a flintlock muzzleloader.
Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who serves as a guide to a mentored youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm and hunter safety and wildlife identification. A mentored youth is defined as an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.
The mentor to mentored youth ratio may not exceed one mentor to one youth, and the pair may possess only one sporting arm while hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth and must keep the youth within arm's length at all times.
BOARD FINALIZES CHANGE FOR SPECIAL SNOW GOOSE SEASON
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change to permit the use of electronic calls during the “Snow Goose Conservation Hunt,” which will be held March 11-April 1. Calls will continue to be illegal for the regular snow goose season, which ends on March 10.
At its meeting in January of 2008, the Board approved a “Snow Goose Conservation Hunt Permit” to help stem the growth of continental snow goose populations, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved the hunt.
Additionally, hunting hours for the special snow goose conservation hunt will be one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
“Snow goose populations have reached levels that are causing extensive, and possibly irreversible damage to their, as well as other nesting birds' arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds,” pointed out John Dunn, Game Commission waterfowl biologist. “For some populations of snow geese their nesting habitats can no longer support these large numbers. What's more, these geese are beginning to impact habitat and crops in Mid-Atlantic states and Quebec.
“It's likely that North America has never had as many snow geese as it does now. They have become a huge and unexpected problem for themselves and other wildlife that shares the wintering and breeding grounds these waterfowl occupy.”
The quickest and probably most effective way for wildlife managers to respond to the problem is to allow additional hunting – and relax hunting regulations – to reduce and stabilize snow goose populations. That's why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized states to use hunters to take snow geese at a time when all other waterfowl seasons are closed. This will include an option to allow hunting hours for this special snow goose season to extend one-half hour after sunset. Currently, all waterfowl shooting hours close at sundown, except for the September Canada goose season.
“More hunting days will provide hunters additional opportunity to harvest snow geese,” Dunn said. “We hope hunters participate in the special hunt. Their involvement can help to make a huge difference for snow geese and many other wildlife species.”
Hunters must obtain a free snow goose conservation hunt permit and report cards from the agency to participate in the season, which will be held from March 11 through April 1. To do so, hunters can access the “Snow Goose Conservation Hunt” page by clicking on the appropriate icon in the center of the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and then following the instructions. By completing the application online, hunters will be able to print off the permit and report cards and will not have to wait for the package to be mailed.
For those individuals with no online access, permits and the required report cards can be obtained by calling the Game Commission at the Harrisburg headquarters (717-787-4250) and asking for the Bureau of Wildlife Management. However, this process will require mailing the permit and report cards to the applicant, so allow a minimum of one week for processing and mail delivery to obtain a permit.
BOARD SETS FUTURE MEETING DATES
In other action today, the Board of Game Commissioners announced the rest of the 2009 quarterly meetings of the Board will be held Monday and Tuesday, April 20-21 and July 8-9, which will be held in the auditorium of the agency's Harrisburg headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave. On Oct. 5-6, the Board will meet in Philadelphia, at a site to be determined later. Also, the January 2010 meeting has been set for Jan. 24, 25 and 26, and will be held at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters.
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