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Commission increases funding for share program

From staff reports

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday voted to increase the agency’s monetary donation to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, ensuring that hunters can continue to donate venison to the state’s hungry without having to pay deer-processing costs.

The board unanimously approved increasing to $55,000 the Game Commission’s 2019 donation to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. The Game Commission for several years has made annual $20,000 donations to the nonprofit organization that routes hunter-harvested ground venison to food banks and soup kitchens statewide, but Hunters Sharing the Harvest asked the board to consider increasing the contribution to offset the program’s rising costs.

Board of Game Commissioners President Timothy Layton said the increase, which was approved by unanimous vote, will go a long way to allow Hunters Sharing the Harvest to continue fulfilling its mission.

The program is more popular than ever, said John Plowman, executive director for Hunters Sharing the Harvest.

The state’s hunters in 2018 set a record with their donation of nearly 150,000 pounds of venison to Hunters Sharing the Harvest, Plowman said.

Deer control permits

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners also gave final approval to a measure that requires applicants to provide proof of public hunting in seeking permits to conduct culls to manage deer in urbanized areas.

Political subdivisions, homeowners associations and nonprofit land-holding organizations are eligible to apply for permits, and these groups are required to use public hunting as a management tool to be considered for a permit.

The change requires them to report hunting activities on their properties in detail, verifying that hunters indeed had the first chance at helping to address deer problems.

Applicants now need to provide the name and CID numbers of all hunters on the property, as well as harvest information.

State game lands

The board also announced it had on April 26, 2019, purchased through real-estate auction for a bid of $475,000 three tracts totaling 108.5 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 81 in Dublin Township, Huntingdon County. The acquisition provides critical access into a detached, landlocked portion of State Game Lands 81 from Tannery Road (T-403). The property is mostly a mixed hardwood forest with redbud and dogwood in the understory. It also includes an eight-acre field.

Commissioners approved the exchange of 10 acres of State Game Lands 217 in Lehigh County for 103 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 168 in Carbon County. It also reported a land purchase approved by notational vote on April 22, 2019, for 108.5 acres, and accepted land donations totaling about five acres. Combined, these transactions will add about 216 acres to agency’s state game lands holdings.

The largest of the donated tracts came in a ratified, donation contract with the York and Adams Beagle Club, which aims to safeguard its 264.87 acres from development, or subdivision, should future members fail to keep the beagle club and grounds currently found on the property active. If the club sustains its membership, it will retain the rights to use the land as a beagle club.

The club’s land holdings, in two tracts totaling 264.87 acres in Paradise and Jackson townships, York County, would revert to the Game Commission if the club disbands.

Additionally, the board accepted a 3.78-acre land donation from Robert Bittel adjacent to State Game 180 in Blooming Grove Township, Pike County. The tract is within the Shohola Waterfowl Management Area.

The board also accepted William L. Kinter’s one-half interest in about 1.3 acres in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County. The property, an indenture into State Game Lands 276, is forested with oak, cherry and poplar.

The board also approved a land exchange with the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC) that exchanged 10 acres of State Game Lands 217 in Washington Township, Lehigh County to LGNC for 103 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 168 in Lower Towamensing Township, Carbon County.

In other action, the board announced that, by notational vote on May 7, 2019, it declined a gift of 22.86 acres in Snyder Township, Blair County, from the Estate of Gianni Blackbear. The decision was made after careful consideration and research, and because of the land’s location and restrictions placed on the property. The notational vote was required due to the time-sensitive Disclaimer of Interest deadline for the property that needed to be filed in Orphan’s Court by June 7, 2019.

WPRA dissolved

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to dissolving the Hegins-Gratz Valley Wild Pheasant Recovery Area and adjusting the boundaries on the state’s two remaining WPRAs, based on recommendations within a final report by Game Commission staff about the WPRA project.

The Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA, which lies within Wildlife Management Unit 4E in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties, was established by the Game Commission in 2010. In 2011, 300 wild pheasants that had been trapped in the western United States were released there in hopes they would take hold and grow into a huntable population.

With few wild pheasants remaining in this WPRA, however, Game Commission staff conceded the goal would not be achieved.

The Game Commission’s ring-necked pheasant management plan calls for dissolving unsuccessful WPRAs so those areas can be reopened to pheasant releases and pheasant hunting. Pheasant releases are prohibited within WPRAs and permit-based youth-only pheasant hunts are permitted only if authorized by executive order of the Game Commission.

Meanwhile, the commissioners also voted to adjust the boundaries of the Central Susquehanna and Franklin County WPRAs, reducing the size of each WPRA to better represent existing populations of wild pheasants.

Funding resolution

Commissioners approved a resolution supporting recent recommendations that Congress dedicate $1.3 billion in existing revenue annually to states and territories to diversify funding and management of all wildlife.

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