Last updated: June 10. 2014 11:33PM - 2447 Views
By - tvenesky@civitasmedia.com

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Those who use State Game Lands for biking, birdwatching, horseback riding and other activities may soon have to pay a fee if they don’t have a hunting or furtaking license.

During Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Game Commission board meeting, commissioner Brian Hoover brought up the idea of creating a user permit for the agency’s 1.4 million acres of game lands. The permit would be similar to the one that is required to use the PGC’s public shooting ranges and would limit when certain activities could take place to avoid conflicts with hunting season. While non-hunting and non-trapping use of the game lands is already permitted, the agency already limits certain activities in specific areas to avoid conflicts and safety issues during hunting season.

Hoover said uses such as mountain biking, birdwatching and horseback riding are among those that would need a permit if the individuals don’t already possess a valid hunting license. The agency’s game lands are purchased primarily through revenue generated by the sale of hunting licenses, along with revenue from timber sales and energy leases, and Hoover instructed PGC staff to review the idea and propose language for a motion at the board’s next working group meeting to be scheduled in August.

“I think it’s time everyone else start contributing,” Hoover said, adding while no cost for the permit has been discussed, it should be higher than the $20.70 price for a hunting license.

William Capouillez, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, said other states, such as West Virginia, sell user permits to use their lands. The permit could also raise additional revenue for the agency, he said, noting that the range permits generated more than $300,000 last year.

In other business, the board also discussed the next step in its predator study that seeks to gauge the impacts of bear and coyote on deer, specifically fawns. Agency staff had previously put a price tag of $4 million on the study, and commissioner Dave Putnam said it’s possible that other states could partner with the PGC to help offset the cost.

Putnam said he has spoken to wildlife researchers outside of the agency, including several in Georgia and South Carolina, about the proposed study.

“It’s pretty significant and it could have national importance,” Putnam said. “We’re going to get the experts in the country to sit down with us and determine if it’s a good idea.”

Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Wilkes-Barre, who first proposed the study idea earlier this year, said the board is still very serious about the concept.

“We want to get it right. There’s a whole lot of opinions on this,” Delaney said. “We have an obligation to our sportsmen to get some answers and get some facts to justify these opinions.”

Putnam said the experts will be brought together to discuss the study at a “scoping meeting” to be scheduled in the near future.

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