Saturday, February 28, 2015

Special Conservation Elk License-2015 Pennsylvania Elk Tag Brings $52,500

Special Conservation Licenses Target Mature Bulls
Pennsylvania offers two special conservation elk licenses, which are issued each year in addition to the normal allocation of  tags. One is auctioned off by a conservation organization, while the other is raffled-off by The Keystone Elk Country Alliance. Both enable the holder to hunt for elk in any elk management unit open to elk hunting for approximately 60 days beginning in early September.

Originally there was one of these licenses which was called a "Governor's Conservation Tag", "Special Conservation Tag" or some combination or variation of these phrasings. Leading up to the first modern day elk season in 2001, the  Game Commission Elk Hunt Advisory Committee Report recommended one special elk license for wildlife conservation organizations to auction as a concept for promoting the hunting of Pennsylvania elk, but it was not implemented at that time as it was determined that this needed prior approval from the legislature.

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 were to be retained by the wildlife conservation organization and the rest turned over to the Game Commission for elk management. This was signed into law on Oct. 9, Act 101 of 2008 (Source PGC News Release #017-09).

The first tag was auctioned off in 2009 by 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, 2013, 2014 and 2015. This year's auction yielded a record high of $52,500 for a Pennsylvania bull elk.

 Below is a list of the years the auction has been held  and the  amounts of the successful bids.

          2009                           National  Wild  Turkey Federation          $28,000.00
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
$ 35,000.00
Safari club International
$ 29,000.00
Eastern Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation
$ 37,500.00
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
$ 40,000.00
             2014                 Rocky Mountain                $41,000.00
                                        Elk  Foundation  

Source: 2009--2013-PGC PROJECT ANNUAL JOB REPORT-Elk Research/Management-
Elk Population Survey/Elk Harvest Management-PERIOD COVERED: 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014-
Auctioning organization and wining bid for the Pennsylvania elk special conservation tag, 2009-2013 Prepared by Jeremy Banfield, Eric Perlock, and Christopher Rosenberry-Date: 27 June 2014.
The 2014 Data is from a 08/13/2014  RMEF Press Release-RMEF Elk Tag Raises Record $41,000 for

There  almost was no auction in 2014 as it is usually held early in the year, but the law authorizing the special conservation tag expired and it was not until July 9, 2014 that  HB 2169, which reauthorizes the Special Elk License, was signed into law.  This left only a short time to hold the auction so It was conducted online from July 31, to August 5th. . HB 2169 also expanded the special license concept to provide an additional tag for auction or raffle by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA), the organization that manages the Elk Country Visitors’ Center in Benezette, Elk County.

This year the tag was sold for $52,500 on Jan. 31, at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's  Hunters Rendezvous Auction, at which several special elk licenses were auctioned off to raise money for conservation. To learn  more about this read PGC News Release #009-15.

While the auctioning of tags has won wide acclaim as a fundraising method, it has also attracted criticism as favoring the wealthy over the average hunter.

According to the Census Bureau, the median household income for Pennsylvania is $ $52,548, and $45,767 for Elk County. Per capita income is listed as $28,502 for Pennsylvania  and  $23,738 for Elk County. All figures are in 2013 dollars. Source: United States Census Bureau Quick Facts .  When one considers this, it is not hard to figure that very few working class people can compete for these tags as a tag is likely to go for more than what one can earn in a year.

The second license as raffled off by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance avoids much of this stigma as almost anyone can afford to participate with chances costing $25 each, or six chances for $100 in the 2014 drawing.  Those who are successful in either the auction or the raffle are also required to buy the either a $25.00 resident ($25.00) or non-resident ( $250.00) elk hunting license in addition to a general hunting license, which was $20.70 for a resident adult or $101.70 for an adult non-resident license in 2014.

It is especially noteworthy that the raffle raised almost $160,000, which is about three times as much as the auctioned tag brought.

While most of the News Release is devoted to the auction, Executive Director Matt Hough is quoted near the end as saying,  “The opportunity to hunt Pennsylvania’s elk only tells part of the story,” Hough said. “Every year, thousands visit the elk range to learn about elk and to see these majestic animals up close."

“Pennsylvania’s elk certainly are something to get excited about, and tens of thousands of people are showing they understand that,” Hough said.

The release goes on to point out that," the Rocky Mountain Elk (RMEF), which has about 11,000 members who are Pennsylvanians, has been an important partner to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for many years. Since 1991, the foundation and its partners have completed 351 conservation and hunting-heritage outreach projects in Pennsylvania, with a combined value of more than $22.6 million."

"RMEF has made 10 land acquisitions that have opened or secured public access to 8,546 acres on Pennsylvania’s elk range, and has been involved with land-enhancement projects on the elk range that total another 7,064 acres."

From my perspective this brings us back to the controversy that raged recently about banning access to State Game Lands "SGLS" during significant portions of the year to all but those actively engaged in hunting or trapping. To their credit it seems that many PGC officials do not want this to happen, but some seem to be determined that some version of this will be passed in the future..  At this point the Agency should be reaching out to both their core constituency of hunters and trappers and to the non-consumptive users of public lands as well,  with a view toward managing the wildlife and wild-lands of The Commonwealth for the benefit and use of all who enjoy our wonderful wildlife heritage..

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.