Monday, January 23, 2012

PA Governor's Conservation Elk Tag: A Brief History

Pennsylvania has one special elk license, which is issued each year in addition to the normal allocation of tags. Some refer to this as a "Governor's Conservation Tag", while others refer to it as a "Special Conservation Tag" or some combination of these phrasings.

Special Conservation Tags Are For Bulls Only
 A brief synopsis of how this special license came to be may be found in Pennsylvania Game Commission News Release #017-09, which states as follows:

"In 2001, a recommendation to provide one special elk license for wildlife conservation organizations to auction was originally included in the Game Commission Elk Hunt Advisory Committee Report as one of the concepts for promoting elk hunting. However, the recommendation was set aside at that time because it was determined that legislative authority was necessary to do so.

Rep. Marc J. Gergely (D-Allegheny) introduced House Bill 747 to grant the Game Commission authority to provide one antlered elk license to a wildlife conservation organization to auction. Of the auction proceeds, up to 20 percent may be retained by the wildlife conservation organization and the rest turned over to the Game Commission for elk management. Signed into law on Oct. 9, Act 101 of 2008 (previously House Bill 747) was unanimously approved by the House and Senate."
(Source PGC News Release #017-09)

Act 101 of 2008 states, "the auction will be open to residents and non-residents of the Commonwealth".

The first conservation tag was awarded to the National Wild Turkey Federation and sold for $28,000 at its' national convention in Nashville, Tennessee, in February of 2009. The successful bidder was Jim Nyce, of Green Lane, Montgomery County, who took a 6x6 bull on Oct. 14, in Benezette Township, Elk County. The decision to award the tag to the NWTF caused a great deal of controversy at the time as many thought that The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation would be a more appropriate organization to auction an elk tag and many were disappointed as they expected the tag to sell for much more.

The tag was awarded to the RMEF in 2010, which auctioned the tag off for $35,000 to another Pennsylvania resident Bob Ehle of Orefield. Ehle harvested a 5x6 on Oct. 7, in Shippen Township, in Cameron County.(source PGC News Release 120-10) This prompted prominent outdoor writer Bob Frye of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to write an article, "Pennsylvania elk herd among nations finest, but for how long?", which is well worth reading. Mr Frye reports that the Boone and Crockett Club ranked Pennsylvania in the top 10 trophy bull producing states of the decade, but goes on to ask,can it sustain that ” and keep hunters' interest high” when the herd numbers fewer than 700 animals?" This article in turn was featured in an October 05, 2010 post on Field and Stream Blogs, "Pennsylvania Hunters Pay Big Money for Chance at Trophy Elk" By Chad Love, which links to Mr. Frye's article and is followed by reader comments, which encompass a range of reactions, which we will explore in the near future.

In 2011, Michael McGinnis of Lyndhurst, Virginia became the first non-resident to obtain the conservation tag. According to PGC Release #126-11 November 08, 2011, "Roe(PGC Executive Director Carl Roe) also noted that Michael McGinnis, of Lyndhurst, Virginia, who was the successful bidder for the Elk Conservation Tag, harvested an antlered elk. McGinnis harvested a 7x9 on Oct. 19, in Jay Township, in Elk County. McGinnis purchased the Conservation Elk Tag during the Safari Club International’s national conference in early 2011, and was able to hunt from Sept. 1-Nov. 5. Under the state law that created the Elk Conservation Tag, of the $29,000 that McGinnis bid for the tag, $23,200 will go to the Game Commission’s Game Fund and $5,800 will be retained by Safari Club International.

In 2012 the tag will be auctioned by the Wild Sheep Foundation at their upcoming Expo in Hunt Valley, Maryland in February. ACT 2008-101 has a sunset provision and the Governor's Conservation Tag will expire on July 1, 2013 unless renewed. Watch for a future post explaining some of the pros and cons of this concept.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.