Thursday, January 15, 2015

PGC Considers Banning Non-consumptive Users During Hunting Seasons

PGC To Consider Banning Foot Access During Hunting Seasons
The agenda for the January meeting of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is now available and it contains some disturbing news for non-consumptive users of state game lands.  I firmly support non-consumptive users contributing to the upkeep of the game lands by being required to have either a hunting license or a use permit of equivalent cost, but if this goes through as proposed everyone but hunters and trappers actually engaged in lawfully hunting will be banned from the game lands from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January and from the second Saturday in April until the last Saturday in May (Memorial Day inclusive), except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.

This differs from the agenda for the September meeting of the PGC in that foot travel was not listed as a activity to be regulated as best as I can tell.
Here is the proposed rule as published.  To read it on the PGC Website click Here. and then click on agenda which will give you the option to download the pdf document on the entire agenda for the January meeting.

A. Amend 58 Pa. Code §§ 135.41 and create Chapter 147, Subchapter AA.
Commentary: At the Board of Commissioners meeting conducted on June 10, 2014, the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management was directed to study the feasibility of the Game Commission enacting a permit requirement for all game lands secondary users who are not currently in possession of a valid hunting or furtaking license. At the Commissioner’s Working Group Meeting on August 11, 2014, a briefing and recommendation was presented by the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management to require the permit for those individuals that were utilizing designated trails on State Game Lands for the purpose of bicycling, horseback riding and snowmobiling. At the Commission Meeting on September 23, the proposed rulemaking was tabled to allow for additional input from Commission Staff. Based on those staff discussions and the public comments received and in order to manage the game lands for its intended uses, the following proposed rulemaking is being offered for Board consideration. This proposal allows the agency to disseminate information to the secondary users of game lands that do not purchase a hunting or furtaking license (and therefore do not receive the annual hunting and trapping digest) and to collect information from these individuals to further protect and enhance the primary purposes of hunting, trapping, and wildlife management on game lands.
§ 135.41. State game lands.
* * * * *
(c) Additional prohibitions. In addition to the prohibitions contained in the act pertaining to State game lands and § 135.2, except with the written permission of the Director, it is unlawful to:
* * * * *
(5) [Ride] Hike on foot or ride a nonmotorized vehicle, conveyance or animal from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January, and [before 1p.m.] from the second Saturday in April through [the last Saturday in May] Memorial Day inclusive, except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.
* * * * *
(23) Ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on any lands or waters designated as State game lands, unless the person is in possession of a valid hunting or furtaker license or a valid SGL permit signed by its holder. This provision shall not be construed to apply to: (i) Persons 15 years of age or younger or up to one person accompanying another person in possession of a valid Pennsylvania hunting or furtaking license or a Commission-issued trail permit.
(ii) Persons using the Appalachian Trail, Laurel Highlands Trail, Horse-Shoe Trail, rails-to-trails or other trails on State game lands under current written agreement or other formal legal authorization permitting such use.
§ 147.1021. Purpose and scope.
This subchapter provides for trail permits to be issued to eligible persons to authorize their holders to ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands.
§ 147.1022. Eligibility and application.
(a) Trail permits will only be issued to persons 16 years of age or older who do not possess a valid Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker license.
(b) Applications for trail permits issued under this subchapter shall be made on a form provided by the Commission.
(c) Applications must include the name and contact information of the permit applicant.
(d) There is no fee for a trail permit.
§ 147.1023. Trail permit.
(a) A trail permit issued under this subchapter authorizes the permittee to ride on designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands.
(b) Permittees shall utilize designated bike trails, snowmobile trails or horse trails or hike on foot on lands and waters designated as State game lands in a manner consistent with applicable requirements, conditions and restrictions provided for in the act and §§ 135.2 and
135.41 (relating to unlawful actions and State game lands).
§ 147.687. Sunset clause.
The provisions of this subchapter shall become effective July 1, 2015 and shall expire and be rendered void on June 30, 2018, unless the Commission further authorizes their legal effectiveness prior to this termination date.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Donna said...

Those who want to have their opinions heard can send comments to to be shared with the board. However, do it quickly, as they meet on January 25. This would really affect photographers, bird watchers, hikers, and all nature lovers. Offer to pay for a non-hunting use permit, etc. Losing access to State Game Lands for nearly half the year would hurt many of us.

Woody Meristem said...

A user fee to contribute to the management and acquisition of State Game Lands would be very appropriate. But to close SGLs to everyone but hunters and trappers for almost half the year is something else entirely.

If the PGC wants to turn a horde of non-hunters into anti-hunters and as a bonus get a lot of additional land posted against hunting this is the way to do it. It's hard to think of a better way to get bad PR for the agency, but I'm sure they could come up with some if they tried.

Unknown said...

It was bad enough that non-consumptive users must pay a usage fee when they do not alter the ecosystem in any way and do not require services necessitated by hunters and trappers but now you wish to ban these taxpayers? This is an ugly attempt to take advantage of the perceived fact that non-consumptive users are not as organized nor as influential as the above-cited groups. Bad move. You will find that you are wrong and that non-consumptive use of State lands is both beneficial and desirable. Do not pass further restrictions.

Christopher A said...

I'm sorry, Rhonda Buttacavoli, but your very presence in nature alters the ecosystem. Parking your vehicle and walking the trails has an effect on the terrain. Most days when I am hunting, I don't do much more than park the vehicle and walk the trails.

With that said, I will be sending an email asking the PGC not to make this policy change.

Andy said...

I would suggest a more radical change: Change the PA Game Commission to the PA Wildlife Commission to reflect the growing use of wildlife for non-consumptive purposes. I would support then a modest license for non-consumptive use. I think it should be less than the price of hunting licenses, because hunting requires a lot of expenses that non-consumptive use does not-- wardens/enforcement, herd management, etc.