Pennsylvania Game Commission Announces Results of October Board Meetings
BOARD TAKES STEP TO EXPAND MENTORED YOUTH OPPORTUNITIES
HARRISBURG – Taking a step forward to grow the agency’s popular Mentored Youth Hunting Program (MYHP), the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to add coyotes to the list of species that may be hunted by youths under the age of 12 while under the supervision of a mentor.
The addition of coyotes to the MYHP line-up was recommended by the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation and the Pennsylvania Fox and Coyote Hunters Association.
Under the MYHP, 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 under the age of 12, 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.
“As with other MYHP opportunities, mentored youth who choose to hunt for coyotes must do so from a stationary hunting location,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.
The MYHP, first implemented by the Board in 2006, also enables participating youth to hunt for squirrel, woodchuck (groundhog), spring gobbler and antlered deer. Antlerless deer are not legal, so mentored youth may not participate in any antlerless-only deer seasons. Also, if mentored youth are participating in the early or late archery deer seasons, or the late flintlock muzzleloader seasons, they must use the sporting arms legal for those seasons to take antlered deer only.
Youth and mentors are required to abide by all fluorescent orange regulations, and the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or spring gobbler taken. Mentored youth may participate in the youth-only squirrel season and the youth-only spring gobbler day, as well as the general squirrel and spring gobbler seasons.
Youths participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which are 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.
BOARD APPROVES ADDITIONAL URBAN DEER MANAGEMENT OPTION
Continuing to implement recommendations of its Urban Deer Management Plan, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change to allow homeowners associations and nonprofit land-holding organizations to apply for a Deer Control Permit under the same process provided for political subdivisions, such as boroughs and townships.
“In developed landscapes, lower deer populations result in fewer deer human conflicts,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “And, although we prefer to use hunting to manage deer populations, hunting is not always feasible in an urbanized setting due to safety zone restrictions. We must, therefore, consider alternative herd reduction tools for communities to address their growing deer populations.
“Recognizing that urban deer issues do not always affect an entire township or borough, the Board is proposing to expand the list of authorized Deer Control Permit applicants to include homeowners associations and nonprofit land-holding companies. This does not change the requirements of the review process, but it does make this tool available to more groups experiencing unacceptable levels of deer-human conflicts in developed areas.”
BOARD GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO EXPANDED USE OF CROSSBOWS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to expand the lawful use of crossbows to include both the archery deer and bear seasons. The Board would need to approve the measure at another public meeting in order for the proposal to take effect, so this change will not be in place for the 2008-09 seasons.
The proposal given preliminary approval also would remove the lawful use of crossbows during the October muzzleloader or late flintlock muzzleloader season.
Other changes made by the proposal would simplify and make the language of the regulations easier to understand.
BOARD APPROVES SIX STATE WILDLIFE GRANTS PROJECTS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved six projects that will study or help species of concern in Pennsylvania. The projects approved are funded from an allocation provided by the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program, administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Aid Program.
The SWG program focuses on endangered species prevention and ensuring that common species remain common. To be eligible for SWG appropriations from the federal government, Pennsylvania developed a “Wildlife Action Plan” that focuses on species with low and declining populations and species that are in great need of proactive conservation, by monitoring more abundant species for which Pennsylvania bears a special responsibility in their long-term conservation, and by incorporating habitat-level management rather than case-by-case, species-specific intervention.
“The SWG program has made Pennsylvania a better place for many species of concern and provided managers with important background to improve resource management programs,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “This work, conducted largely by both local and national partners to our agency, has accomplished great good for wildlife and the environment. But there’s much more work to do, and the cost of doing that research and intervening usually becomes more expensive with each passing year. That’s why the SWG program is critical to Pennsylvania. It makes an important difference for some species before it’s too late.”
Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan (WAP) can be viewed on the internet by going to the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by clicking on “Wildlife” in the left column, and then selecting “Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan” in the “Wildlife Grants & Programs” box.
The projects approved by the Board today are as follows:
EASTERN WOODRAT (NEOTOMA MAGISTER) MANAGEMENT WORKSHOPS: Classroom and on-site instruction (at four, two-day regional workshops), will provide 90 or more resource managers with a foundation for the adaptive management of insular, surface rock communities, emphasizing the delineation of N. magister habitat sites and the avoidance, reversal or mitigation of factors potentially contributing to the decline of this species and ultimately federal listing as a threatened species. Concurrently, a workshop steering committee will form the nucleus of a N. magister recovery team (Jerry Hassinger – $30,000).
STATE GAME LAND 214 (PYMATUNING) WETLAND RESTORATION: This work will restore and enhance 113 acres of emergent and scrub-shrub wetlands for WAP species of high concern (Kurt Dyroff, Ducks Unlimited – $63,000).
TESTING SOLUTIONS TO BAT FATALITIES BY WIND TURBINES: PROACTIVE RESPONSE TO THREATS: This is the first time a wind power facility is participating in a program designed to test deterrence and curtailment options to reduce the threat of wind turbines to bats. This work will ensure substantial and measurable progress in understanding patterns of activity and fatalities and implementing deterrence and curtailment options to reduce fatalities (Ed Arnett, Bat Conservation International – $45,000).
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP NGTC GRASSLAND HABITAT: Improve high quality native warm-season grassland habitat by implementing an ecosystem based restoration plan to benefit 19 WAP priority species. Rehabilitating former grasslands and expanding current grasslands at FIG will have a tremendous impact on the cohesiveness and connectivity of this segmented habitat (Todd Bacastow, Pennsylvania State University – $41,549).
PINEY TRACT IMPORTANT BIRD AREA GRASSLANDS MANAGEMENT: This project will improve habitat at the Piney Tract IBA, a site of global significance to several grassland-obligate bird species of conservation concern. Invasive trees and shrubs will be removed and bird populations will be monitored in response to the removals. The results will help inform additional restoration efforts on similar habitats (Sarah Sargent, National Audubon Society – $30,000).
ANALYSIS OF BREEDING BIRD ATLAS DATA IN PREPARATION FOR PUBLICATION: This effort will compile and analyze data resulting from 5 years of the successful 2nd PA Breeding Bird Atlas that resulted in an average of over 68 birds in nearly all 5,937 blocks. The result is a new comprehensive assessment of all breeding birds, summary of broad distribution and abundance patterns, and thousands of point-specific locations for priority species. The resulting report will focus on new conservation guidance and tools for conservation and management of breeding birds and new evaluation of habitat associations. (Bob Mulvihill, Carnegie Museum of Natural Science at a cost of $120,000).
BOARD APPROVES THREE LAND DONATIONS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved three land donations offered in Greene, Lebanon and Luzerne counties to be added to the agency’s network of 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands.
In Greene County, the Board approved accepting a donation of 125 acres in Richhill Township, adjoining SGL 302, which currently is comprised of 1,196.2 acres in Greene and Washington counties. This donation from Consol Pennsylvania Coal Company, of Pittsburgh, consists of 60 acres of mixed hardwoods, 35 acres of shrub lands and reverting old fields and 30 acres of agricultural land; of which 20 acres are tillable. There is a small stream originating from ground water and springs on the property that flows into the Enlow Fork of Wheeling Creek. Indiana bats, which are a federal- and state-listed endangered species, are present on or near the property. There is no surface mining taking place on the tract, but there is a 10-foot square fenced vent shaft and a two-acre vent shaft adjacent to the tract, which will need to be subdivided prior to the donation. The entire property currently is being long-wall mined and will be subject to planned subsidence. No evidence was seen of acid mine drainage.
In Lebanon County, the Board approved accepting a donation of 1.99 acres in Cornwall Borough, adjacent to SGL 156, which currently consists of 5,184 acres in Lancaster and Lebanon counties. This donation from Catherine M. Fitzgibbons, Cornwall, is a forested parcel about 4,268 feet long by 20 feet wide and is adjacent to an existing electric transmission line right-of-way on SGL 156. Oak, hickory, black gum and sassafras make up the overstory with arrowwood, witch-hazel, maple-leaf viburnum and blackberry in the understory.
Finally, in Luzerne County, the Board approved accepting a donation of one acre in Dennison Township, which is about 2.3 miles away from SGL 187, which currently consists of 8,186.2 acres in Luzerne County. This donation from Patricia A. Davis, of Greenville, South Carolina, is a detached parcel predominately forested with northern hardwoods and eastern hemlock.
BOARD APPROVES LAND EXCHANGE IN WARREN COUNTY
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a land exchange with the Tony L. Stec Lumber Company Inc. that will result in 100 acres of additional land being added to State Game Land 86 in Warren County.
Stec previously was the high bidder on a Game Commission timber sale on SGL 86 and agreed to pay the agency $202,020 for the timber. The Stec family is the owner of a tract of land comprised of 100 acres in Deerfield Township, Warren County, which is an indenture into SGL 86. As the Game Commission is interested in acquiring this tract to protect potential encroachment into SGL 86, the agency and Stec have agreed to the value of $170,000 for the 100-acre parcel.
As part of the exchange, Stec will transfer the 100-acre parcel to the Game Commission, and the agency would credit Stec’s timber contact $170,000 toward the $202,020 commitment.
The property is entirely forested with mostly mixed northern hardwoods to include hickory, oak and cherry. The majority of the tree species are in early forest succession. A small one-acre wetland is located on the property and an unnamed tributary, which supports native brook trout, flows across the property.
SGL 86 currently consists of 14,271 acres in Warren County.
BOARD APPROVES GAS STORAGE LEASE AMENDMENT
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a lease amendment with Steckman Ridge to its existing 753.32-acre oil/gas lease on State Game Land 49 in Monroe Township, Bedford County.
The lease amendment consists of the addition of gas storage rights in the Oriskany formation for 82.36 storage acres and 398.6 buffer acres. Steckman Ridge is converting 1,906 acres of the now depleted Oriskany sandstone formation to a natural gas storage field, of which 82.36 acres is under the Game Commission’s ownership.
In exchange for the lease amendment, Steckman Ridge will make a one-time bonus payment of $48,460 to the Game Fund. Steckman Ridge also will pay the Game Commission an annual rental of $15,067 per year or a storage fee rate of three-cents per MCF of the storage field proportionally owned by the Game Commission, whichever the greater.
The project will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s oil/gas regulations and the Game Commission’s standard lease agreement. There will be no surface use of the lease area associated with this proposed gas storage lease amendment. All other terms and conditions of the lease will remain unchanged.
BOARD APPROVES COAL REFUSE REMOVAL AND RECLAMATION LEASE
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a lease with CMT Energy Inc., of Brisbin, to mine and remove abandoned coal refuse disposed on a portion of a 20.2-acre tract of State Game Land 60 in Gulich and Beccaria townships, Clearfield County.
The proposed coal refuse removal will entail about 9.3 acres of unreclaimed coal refuse spoil piles. The remaining lease acreage will be utilized for access to the coal refuse removal site, construction of erosion and sedimentation controls and operational support. The accumulated coal refuse royalty value of this proposed project has been calculated at approximately $25,000.
Removal and reclamation of the spoil piles will reduce ongoing pollution into Muddy Run.
Reclamation will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s surface Mining regulations and the Commission’s coal refuse removal and reclamation lease agreement. The five-year lease will include a $10,000 performance bond and environmental protection standards.
Further, CMT Energy will be obligated to carry out a site specific wildlife habitat and reclamation plan as per the direction of the local Land Management Group Supervisor. The reclamation plan will include the development of a 1.5- to two-acre shallow water wetland complex. No merchantable timber is to be affected by this reclamation operation.
In exchange for the coal refuse removal and reclamation lease, CMT Energy will pay the Game Commission a royalty of 10 percent F.O.B pit price or a minimum of $1/ton, whichever the greater for each and every ton of coal refuse mined and removed from the site.
BOARD TAKES OTHER ACTION
In other action today, the Board of Game Commissioners:
– Gave final approval to a series of technical changes to the agency’s regulations governing those operating under a wildlife rehabilitation permit;
– Gave final approval to a series of technical changes to the agency’s regulations governing those operating under a commercial wildlife pest control permit, which will be renamed nuisance wildlife control operator permit, consistent with industry standards. Additionally, those who possess a nuisance wildlife control operator permit will be able to take a second test and become authorized to address nuisance deer situations;
– Gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change to permit the use of electronic calls during the snow goose conservation hunt. The agency continues to await approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on it’s snow goose conservation hunt proposal;
– Recognized the final meetings of Game Commissioners Russell Schleiden and Roxane Palone. While this was the final meeting in their eight-year term, both Commissioners have the option of serving up to an additional six months, or until their successor is confirmed by the state Senate;
– Approved a resolution proposed by Game Commissioner Jay Delaney to support and advocate the implementation of the agency’s Ring-Necked Pheasant Management Plan; and
– Reaffirmed that the Board’s first meeting of 2009 to be held on Jan. 25-27, in the auditorium of the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave., just off the Progress Avenue exit of Intestate 81 in Dauphin County.