Friday, March 6, 2015

Special Elk License Auctions And Raffle Further Explained

Much Of Raffle And Auction Proceeds Are Used For Elk Management And Habitat Enhancement

Since it seems likely that many readers do not return to a post to check the comments on subsequent visits to the blog,  I am basing today's post on two comments that were made on the last post.

Woody Meristem has worked over forty years in managing natural and  human-modified ecosystems and also photographs wildlife and wildflowers. He is the author of the " In Forest and Field" Blog

Woody commented, " It's hard (impossible?) to defend auctioning a public resource to the highest bidder when so many folks of ordinary means will never get a chance to obtain a permit -- not to mention that the raffle raised more money."

Extensive Funding Is Required To Maintain Food Plots
 Jack Manack of Elk County Outfitters responded as follows,

Willard and readers,

Recently on a hunting website the talk of "Governors Tags" came up and many voiced similar opinions as Woody above did. In stead of retyping or rewording my response I cut and pasted it here. I apologize if it repeats some of the stats that Willard covered in his post.

I have had the opportunity to share a camp and spend time with the last four out of the total six hunters that have had the PA Conservation tag, plus the KECA raffle tag winner. I admit when the tag was first introduced in 2009 I had mixed feelings and didn't know what to think. I soon realized that any hesitations I had to these types of tags were my own problems and nothing more.

This past year the Keystone Elk Country Alliance got their own tag and decided to raffle it off. I agree that this is a great way to have this type of tag, and as was proven, it is also a great way to raise funds for a great cause. The fact that almost $160,000.00 was raised in four weeks is unbelievable. Everybody at Elk County Outfitters enjoys chasing the elk around every fall, enjoys all the people that we have met and gotten to be friends with, but most of all we enjoy the elk range and the area surrounding it. We don't just hunt elk there. We hunt deer, turkeys, bears, coyotes, and so on. The list is almost as long as the species of animals that benefit from the money raised to improve the habitat. That is why we donated the guiding, meals, lodging, etc to go along with that tag. We felt like that was a small way to give back for all of the enjoyment we get out of the area year round.

The elk hunt is constantly under scrutiny and attack, not all of it comes from non-hunters either. The other side of the hunting debate has an extremely loud voice and like it or not extremely deep pockets. When an organization like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation gets awarded a tag like this, before you complain remember that just in Pennsylvania alone they have completed 351 conservation projects with a combined value of over 22 million dollars. So if they want to take that tag and auction it off to the highest bidder, don't get upset about it. Try to remember who the real winner is. It's the sportsman of PA. But maybe that is why some are upset, because they don't fall into that group.

I for one want to thank the organizations that help conserve, improve, and keep the great tradition that is hunting going forward. Whether someone buys a general hunting license, a single raffle tag, or a conservation tag for a couple hundred thousand dollars they are contributing toward the betterment of hunting and they should be thanked not insulted.

Jack Manack
Elk County Outfitters

My Response

First off, I would like to say I thank both gentlemen for their comments and to try to clarify who is responsible for the way licenses are issued and who decides if a raffle or an auction will be used to award special licenses.

Personally I do not like the idea of auctioning tags, but I do not consider that this auction  reflects negatively on The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation nor does the fact that KECA tag is raffled off reflect bring either credit or discredit to that organization as the method is proscribed by State Law.

 In this case  HB 2169 amended Section 2706.2 of Title 34(Game Law)  of The Consolidated Pennsylvania Statutes to re-authorize the original special conservation tag and establish the raffle.

First it establishes how the normal licenses issued each year shall be awarded and it plainly states,  "The commission shall hold a random drawing of applications for the issuance of elk licenses under this subsection at the Elk Country Visitor Center in the Township of Benezette."
 The Special Conservation Tags
The Auction
Next it establishes that the PGC is authorized to auction off a special license to hunters interested in the opportunity to hunt one elk subject to the following:
(1) One license shall be auctioned annually.
(2) The auction shall be open to residents and
nonresidents of this Commonwealth.
(3) The commission may, under 62 Pa.C.S. Pt. I (relating
to Commonwealth Procurement Code), contract with a wildlife
conservation organization to implement and conduct the
auction. The commission shall promulgate regulations for the
use of the license, remitting funds to the commission and
conduct of the auction.
(4) [The contracted organization shall retain no more
than 20% of the proceeds from the auction.
The Raffle

Special-license fundraiser.--In addition to any other elk license provided for under this section, the commission may hold a special-license fundraiser for hunters interested in the opportunity to hunt one elk, subject to the following:
(1) The commission may enter into a contract with a
Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization whose primary
mission is the advancement of education, stewardship and
habitat for the elk population in this Commonwealth and that
is a participant in a public-private partnership for the
management and operation of the Elk Country Visitor's Center
in Benezette Township, Elk County, to auction or raffle one
elk license annually.
(2) The entity which contracts with the commission under
paragraph (1) may conduct a fundraiser for the opportunity
for interested hunters to purchase the elk license. The
fundraiser shall be open to all residents and nonresidents of
this Commonwealth who wish to obtain the license. The
subsequent use of the license must meet Federal and State
hunting regulations.
 (3) The entity which contracts with the commission under
paragraph (1) may retain administrative costs associated with
the auction.
(4) The proceeds remaining after retention of
administrative costs under paragraph (3) shall be returned to
the commission and shall be used pursuant to the contract
under paragraph (1) in a manner consistent with the
commission's elk management plan. 
The Bottom Line
In the interest of brevity I have left out some parts that are not really of interest to our discussion here so I suggest that you read the actual law if you so desire.  The main points I take away are:

  • The Organization auctioning the tag may retain up to 20% of what the tag brings for their own use and may also retain administrative costs, which are agreed on in advance to the tag being awarded to the organization. 
  •  In the instance of the raffle- KECA retains only the administrative costs which again are agreed upon in advance of the raffle.
  • RMEF returned all moneys earned from the 2014 auction to the PGC for use in elk management and habitat development.
 Originally Published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.