Commisioners increase fees, delay funding cuts

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission this week increased some fees, installed new board officers and made other changes, while delaying a plan to cut spending on popular items such as fish hatcheries.

Commissioners acted on a number of revenue enhancements brought forward by staff designed to counter declines in traditional revenue and escalating costs associated with current programs. Collectively, these revenue enhancements are projected to raise $1.2 million annually beginning in Fiscal Year 2018-19.

These enhancements include the introduction of four voluntary permits: a habitat conservation improvement permit, a muskie permit, a wild trout and enhanced waters permit and a bass permit. The Commission also approved the establishment of a cover price for the annual Summary of Fishing Regulations and Laws publication, and a Property Use and Entrance Permit for those members of the public not holding a valid fishing license, launch permit or boat registration.

Commissioners deferred a decision from last fall to reduce spending by $2 million beginning in July 2018 based on a commitment by key members of the General Assembly to work towards providing additional revenue in the new legislative session. Fish Commission Executive Director John Arway noted the lack of legislative approval for a fishing license price increase since 2005 while sales decline and expenses grow.

“I am pleased that the General Assembly acknowledges the Commission’s need for additional revenue to keep our Commonwealth waters protected and managed,” Arway said. “The Commission receives no general funds for operations and management of programs which are all funded by our customers … This decision will allow the PFBC to move forward in the new fiscal year and provide our customers the level of goods and services they have come to expect.”

Eric Hussar was installed as the new president of the board and Richard Lewis as vice-president. Hussar resides in Lewisburg and represents the PFBC’s Fifth District, which includes Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union counties. Lewis, a Gettysburg resident, is one of two boating-at-large Commissioners.

Commissioners also voted to approve proposed rulemaking to increase permit fees for Scientific Collectors’ Permits and permit fees for Triploid Grass Carp, Snapping Turtles, Venomous Snakes and Organized Reptile and Amphibian Hunts. These proposed increases in permit fees are in line with U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) tool that is based on annual inflation rates. Proposed increases are from $5 to $30 depending on the permit. Some of these permits have not been increased since 2008.

In other action, commissioners approved the designation of five stream sections to the Commission’s list of Class A wild trout streams. Also, the board approved the addition of 99 new waters to the Commission’s list of wild trout streams and revised the section limit of one water.

The Commission also approved an amendment to regulations pertaining to exemptions from license requirements, to meet current requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This amendment will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.