HARRISBURG As productive as 2009 was for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the agency has its sights set on accomplishing even more – if, and when, it gets the financial support it needs in the form of the state legislators approving a license increase.
That was the message of the PGC this week in its annual report to the General Assembly and the one executive director Carl Roe delivered to the House Game and Fisheries Committee. When the agency gets approval for a license increase, however, remains uncertain.
"This has been another productive year for the Game Commission as we faced many challenges and yet were able to continue to improve some of our programs," Roe said. "We were still not able to do all we would like for the Commonwealth's wildlife or the hunters and trappers due to the lack of resources to accomplish our objectives.
"As you read through the annual report, you will again see that in the program accountability section we built the report on the strategic plan objectives to give you an idea of how we manage towards the goals and objectives of the strategic plan. Our public accountability section again addresses major program areas, and the budget accountability is relatively self-explanatory.
"In the law enforcement accountability section we had five formal complaints compared to seven in 2008 and 10 in 2007. Of the five, one was sustained and was a case of unprofessional demeanor, and overall our wildlife protection efforts were again strong as we increased apprehensions for illegal take of game by five percent, hunting over bait by 13 percent, hunting or taking game with a motorized vehicle by 31 percent and overall we had 19,172 violations detected with 6,948 citations and 12,224 warnings."
In addressing in detail some of the PGC programs, Roe said the Pennsylvania Automated License Sales System that commenced last year is an unqualified success, after some early problems were corrected. In addition to being popular with both the agents and the hunters, the agency initiated a harvest reporting system over the internet.
Roe said just one hunter complained about the system because he was unable to report the points of the 18-point buck he shot. That problem has since been corrected.
"We continue to move forward with our wild pheasant reintroduction program that is a result of a great partnership with Pheasants Forever," Roe said. "We are introducing pheasants again this year to our third wild pheasant restoration area in Somerset County.
"Additionally, we had another area nominated for a pheasant restoration area in the Southeast Region."
According to sources, the new area is slated for the Hegins Valley area in western Schuylkill County. Although the pheasant management plan calls for four restoration areas, it is believe that with continued success and assistance from Pheasants Forever and local landowners, the PGC can exceed that objective.
"Last year's hunting season was pretty good across the board," Roe said. "We do not have the results of the current deer seasons, but in 2008-09 we had an estimated deer harvest of 335,850.
"Our bear kill this past year was the second largest ever with 3,499 bear being taken, and this past fall's elk season was an interesting challenge. We had the lowest success rate ever during our elk season, and we believe this was a result of a healthy mast crop in the area that changed the elk's feeding patterns from their normal grazing habitat.
"They appeared to be able to stay in the woods and eat acorns instead of coming out into the gazing areas. It was much more difficult to pattern the elk, and with that in mind, we had the same concern coming into the deer season."
Roe said that over the past few years the PGC has made a concerted effort to improve the communication about our deer program. As the agency has done for the past three years, it will be offering a series of open houses in each of its regions in the next few months.
All PGC deer information and data is available to the public on the agency Web site. Additionally, it publishes the "Deer Chronicle" twice a year to keep the public updated on the deer-management program, and maintains the "Ask the Biologist" link on the web where the public can ask biologists question on various game species.
"On the legislative front, the primary issue continues to be the license increase," Roe said. "It has been 11 years since our last increase, and as I always mention, I do not know of any company that is surviving on a revenue stream based on 1999 values.
"Certainly the rest of state government has not been held to those levels. In fact, if our budget would have been allowed to increase at the same rate as the rest of the state, we would have been able to spend $95.2 million instead of the roughly $68 million we have spent for the past three years.
"We have had numerous hearings across the state for the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee and all have been positive. A license increase is about funding the wildlife resources of the Commonwealth; it is about how you want to resource our efforts to take care of wildlife for the citizens of the Commonwealth."
To view a copy of the PGC's annual report, access the agency Web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us, click on "Resources" in the menu bar, select "Reports/Minutes" in the drop-down menu, click on "Annual Legislative Reports" and then click on "2009" in the listing.