HARRISBURG -- A 10-member Pennsylvania Game Commission ad hoc advisory committee to review state game lands regulations held its first meeting to identify concerns and begin developing recommendations on how the agency may better protect these wild places from misuse and degradation.
"Today^s meeting was a very productive and informative dialogue," said Clay VanBuskirk, Commission Game Land Planning and Development Division chief and ex-officio member of the advisory committee. "We outlined for committee members our issues of concern and asked them for their assistance in developing possible solutions.
"With more and more people participating in outdoor recreational activities, the Game Commission has encountered situations in which those activities are threatening wildlife habitats and disturbing wildlife on state game lands. The agency has an obligation to properly develop publicly-acceptable recommended regulatory changes to address the problems before it reaches a statewide critical level."
The ad hoc advisory committee will develop recommendations for regulations to address state game lands uses that have led to degradation or destruction of wildlife habitat or are having negative impacts on nesting or wintering wildlife populations. The review process may ultimately lead to changes in some regulations governing approved activities on the nearly 1.4 million acres of state game lands, nearly all of which were originally purchased with hunters^ dollars.
Because some of these changes may affect current uses of the Game Lands, the Commission is seeking input from any affected user groups in addressing identified problems, allowing the agency to carry out its legislated mandate of wildlife management on these lands while considering public comment in the process.
"As this process moves forward, we plan to have the committee develop draft recommendations, which will then ultimately be presented to the public for comment through a series of open houses," VanBuskirk said.
Members of the ad hoc advisory committee are:
Andy Mazzanti, a member of the Governor^s Sportsmen^s Advisory Council, as a representative of hunters and trappers;
Ron Freed, of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society, as a representative of wildlife enthusiasts;
John W. Stein, of the Keystone Trails Association, as a representative of the hikers;
G. Lowell Morton, of the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association, as a representative of snowmobilers;
Pete Johnson, of the Pennsylvania Equine Council Inc., as a representative of horse-back riders;
Paul A. Lyskava, of the state Department of Agriculture^s Hardwoods Development Council, as a representative of the forest products industry;
Rick Dunlap, of the state Department of Community and Economic Development^s Office of Tourism and Marketing, as a representative of the state^s tourism industry;
Richard Martin, of the Keystone Mountain Bike Association, as a representative of mountain bikers; and
Matt Ehrhart, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as a representative of water quality interests.
Other Game Commission ex-officio committee members are Bruce Metz, Southeast Region Land Management supervisor; and Michael Dubaich, Bureau of Law Enforcement Special Operations Division chief.
In addition, Paul Hindmarsh and Franca D^Agostino, of Governor^s Office of Administration Bureau of Management Consulting, served as the facilitators.
"The Game Commission^s legislatively-mandated mission is to protect and manage Pennsylvania’s wild birds and mammals and to develop, conserve and preserve critical wildlife habitats," VanBuskirk said. "Increased recreational activities not consistent with the agency’s legislated mission also may jeopardize our ability to continue receiving federal funds through the Pittman-Robertson Fund."
Last year, the Game Commission received nearly $7.6 million in Pittman-Robertson funds.
Once a list of recommendations is developed, the Commission will advise the public through the news media, open houses and the Commission^s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Public input will be solicited and collected during the open houses.
Created by the state General Assembly in 1895, the Game Commission is charged with managing and conserving Pennsylvania^s wild birds and mammals and their habitats, as well as preserving the Commonwealth^s rich hunting and trapping heritage.