HARRISBURG, Pa., June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legislation signed into law on Monday prompted a vote today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners to put on hold any changes to regulations for feral swine and wild boars.
The commissioners at their January meeting proposed regulatory changes for feral swine and wild boars, which do not occur naturally in Pennsylvania, but sometimes escape to the wild from fenced hunting preserves. The action was based on the conclusion that escaped and feral swine are destructive to native wildlife species and their habitats, and pose health risks and other threats.
The animals are prolific breeders and can quickly establish wild populations once escaped.
The proposed rulemaking, which was tabled today by a unanimous vote of the commissioners, included the statewide removal of protection for feral swine and wild boars. It also called for a ban on the importation of wild boars and feral swine, then, a year later, for making it illegal to possess the animals.
The commissioners indicated they would take more time reviewing the issue, considering that Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday signed into law state Senate Bill No. 644, which amends the definition of "wild animals" to remove any species of swine held in captivity. The change in definition placed the authority solely with the state Department of Agriculture to manage captive Pennsylvania swine.
The Game Commission continues to hold authority for feral swine that escape to the wild.
Meanwhile, an executive order remains in place that allows hunters statewide to take any feral swine and wild boar they might encounter in the wild.
Feral swine can be taken with any lawful firearm, bow, crossbow, or by trapping. All takings of feral swine and wild boars must be reported to the local Game Commission Region Office within 24 hours of the kill. The carcasses of all feral swine and wild boars taken must made available to the commission for disease sampling.
COAL DEAL TO CREATE NEW GAME LANDS
Agreement would allow commission to acquire 2,031-acre tract in Cambria County
A deal permitting a Pennsylvania coal company to perform surface mining at two state game lands clears the way for the state Game Commission to acquire a third property, in Cambria County, that would become a new, 2,031-acre game lands.
The Board of Game Commissioners today approved a package of five mining and reclamation agreements with Laurel Sand & Stone Inc. of Ligonier, Pa. As part of the agreements, the company would conduct surface mining and reclamation projects on nearly 249 acres of State Game Lands 79 in Cambria County and approximately 476 acres of State Game Lands 276 in Indiana County.
In exchange, Laurel Sand & Stone would convey to the Game Commission three tracts totaling 2,413 acres.
One of those tracts – the 2,031-acre Driscoll Hollow Tract in Susquehanna and Elder townships in Cambria County – is to be designated as the new State Game Lands 334.
To pay for the land, the commission will credit Laurel Sand & Stone the first $2 million of the accumulated royalties of the deals approved today. The acreage of the Driscoll Hollow Tract will be transferred incrementally on annual basis as mining progresses and the royalties accumulate. However, the entire tract will be entered into the Game Commission's Hunter Access program immediately upon execution of the lease agreements.
The Driscoll Hollow Tract is one of three Laurel Sand & Stone is conveying to the commission. The company also is giving up a 346-acre tract in Butler County that is adjacent to State Game Lands 95, as well as a 36-acre tract in Cambria County, adjacent to State Game Lands 79.
"In all of the proposed mining areas, it's important to know that the commission is not the actual coal owner and that the lease approvals are the result of a mutually beneficial arrangement where the commission and sporting public will receive additional game lands as compensation to extract the remaining coal from old abandoned mined areas," said William A. Capouillez, director of the commission's Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management.
The initial term of each surface mining agreement is five years, with Laurel Sand & Stone paying royalties of 6 percent freight-on-board price for all coal 11,500 BTUs or greater; 5 percent for all coal 8,500 to 11,499 BTUs; and 4 percent for all coal less than 8,500 BTUs.
Freight-on-board price, or F.O.B., is the price for which coal is sold at the pit.
SOUTHEAST REGION APPROVED FOR NEW HEADQUARTERS
Larger facility among several land deals OK'd by the board.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Southeast Region Office could soon be moving into a larger building, following a vote today by the Board of Game Commissioners.
The 24,168-square-foot building at 253 Snyder Road in Maidencreek Township, Berks County, is more than three times as large as the Southeast Region's existing office, which is at 448 Snyder Road.
The existing facility, which is in Ontelaunee Township, near Reading, would be given up as part of the new facility's purchase. The Game Commission also would pay $1.35 million as part of the exchange. That sum would come from third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects.
The Board of Game Commissioners approved the deal, noting the need for more office and storage space at the regional headquarters.
Settlement is to be held on or before Aug. 15.
Land acquisitions totaling more than 700 acres also were approved by the board. Among the acquisitions are:
- Two tracts totaling more than 285 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 322 in Oneida Township, Huntingdon County. The tracts were purchased at public auction May 4 after the Board of Game Commissioners in April authorized the bidding. The $1,013,454 purchase is to be paid with escrowed funds from a prior land exchange on State Game Lands 176 in Centre County. The new properties would provide critical access to State Game Lands 322 from Cold Springs Road. The property also includes portions of Standing Stone Creek, a trout-stocked fishery and diverse wetlands complex. There's a historically significant warm spring on the property that maintains a temperature of about 63 degrees. The parcel is mostly forested with mixed oaks, hickory and white pine.
- A 209-acre tract in Wayne Township, Lawrence County, near State Game Lands 148. The property was offered by the Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC at no cost as mitigation for mining impacts on Indiana bats. Approximately 100 acres of the property are forested with mixed hardwoods, and there are nine acres of forest openings. The remainder of the property is reverting old fields with some shrubs.
- A 191-acre tract adjacent to State Game Lands 284 in Washington Township, Lawrence County. The land is offered at no cost by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as mitigation for impact on short-eared owl habitat caused by road construction projects. The reclaimed surface mine land is suitable habitat for grassland birds, and there's an acre of wetlands on the property.
- A 41-acre island tract in Manor Township, Armstrong County, near State Game Lands 247. The property was offered by Hanson Aggregates BMC Inc. at no cost to the Game Commission, for impacts on two state-threatened fish species from sand and gravel dredging in the Ohio River. The island is forested with a thick understory, and portions of the island are seasonally inundated.
- Fourteen acres adjacent to State Game Lands 314 in Springfield Township, Erie County. The tract mainly is forested and existing infrastructure there will serve as an auxiliary Food and Cover Corps headquarters. A $100,000 grant could be used toward the $138,000 purchase price. The tract is offered for sale by James W. Whipple.
- A more than 68-acre tract adjacent to State Game Lands 184 in Dean Township, Cambria County. This tract, conveyed by E.P. Bender Coal Co. Inc., is in exchange for several obligations related to work and rights of way at State Game Lands 108 in Cambria County. The property is forested with mixed hardwoods and mountain laurel. Multiple springs and seeps associated with Little Laurel Run are found on the property, with hemlock and white pine along the stream bottom.
- The commissioners also were notified about the $130,000 purchase at sheriff's sale of a 63-acre tract adjacent to State Game Lands 310 in Lake Township, Wayne County. The sum is to be paid with funds from third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses on state game lands from previously approved projects. The property is part of Silkmans Swamp. Jones Creek, a high-quality stream, flows through the center of 44 acres of wetlands. The remaining 19 acres are regenerating maple and ash forest.
BOARD REMOVES LATE FEE FOR LICENSING AGENTS
Less oversight needed for automated system; penalty no longer necessary
Agents who issue hunter and furtaker licenses in Pennsylvania no longer will need to pay a $100 late fee if they miss the deadline to apply.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners said it's no longer necessary to assess a late fee because the automated system of selling licenses is easier to administer.
Under the old system, ample time was needed to create agents' accounts and coordinate the shipment of hunting licenses before the start of the new license year
With the automated system, licenses no longer are shipped to agents. In giving approval to the matter, the commissioners said continuing to assess the late fee created an unnecessary burden on issuing agents.
While the late fee was removed, the March 31 deadline by which agents are to apply ahead of the new license year (which typically begins July 1) remains unchanged.
The commissioners also added language to the amendment stating there's no guarantee that those who apply late to become agents will be approved for sales by the July 1 start of the license year.
The amendment also clarifies that rebates offered to issuing agents based on the number of licenses sold are given only for sales during their first license year, and not thereafter.
ENERGY LEASES TO GENERATE $4.7M IN REVENUE
Royalty payments to commission also guaranteed by deals
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved lease agreements with energy companies that will bring in nearly $4.7 million in bonus payments, and a yet undetermined amount of royalties.
Nearly all of the lease agreements result from requests by companies that have strong leaseholds in the surrounding areas, and already are in possession of the energy rights on Game Commission properties. The agreements ensure the fuels are extracted with little to no surface impacts on game lands. The agreements are:
- A lease with Range Resources Appalachia LLC for oil-and-gas development on a 62.6-acre portion of State Game Lands 117 in Washington County. The $2,500 per acre bonus payment is worth $156,500, and the commission is to receive 19 percent in royalties from fuels that are sold.
- A lease with Southwestern Energy Production Co., of Houston, Texas, for oil-and-gas development across 736.2 acres on State Game Lands 175 in Susquehanna County. The $3,000 per acre bonus payment is worth $2,208,600 and the commission is to receive 20 percent in royalties for the fuels that are sold.
- A lease with Southwestern Energy Production Co., of Houston, Texas, for oil-and gas development on a 774-acre portion of State Game Lands 35 in Susquehanna County. The $3,000 per acre bonus payment is worth $2,322,000 and the commission is to receive 20 percent royalty for fuels that are sold.
- A lease with Robindale Energy Service Inc., of Armagh, Pa., to mine and remove approximately 64 acres of coal rights in Beccaria Township, Clearfield County. While the coal rights on the property are owned by the Game Commission, the property on which the mining would occur is privately owned. The five-year agreement sets royalties at either 6 percent of freight-on-board pit price or $2.50 per ton – whichever is greater – for coal that is sold and has a BTU value of 10,000 or greater. Royalties are set at 6 percent for coal that is sold and has a BTU value of less than 10,000. Freight-on-board price, or F.O.B., is the price for which coal is sold at the pit.
GAME COMMISSIONER SAYS FAREWELL
David Schreffler speaks of pride in serving the board for eight years
Serving a six-month extension of a term that expired at eight years, Game Commissioner David Schreffler today bid the board farewell, saying it has been an honor to serve the state's sportsmen.
In recognition of his service to the board, Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe presented Schreffler with framed print of a work by famed wildlife artist Ned Smith.
In accepting the gift, Schreffler addressed the board and others attending today's meeting in Harrisburg, speaking of the pleasure with which he served the Game Commission and the sportsmen of Pennsylvania. The commission, he said, truly is an agency run for and by sportsmen.
"Thank you all for this life-enhancing experience," he said. "I have been humbled, honored and so proud and thankful to have been a small part of our many accomplishments."
Schreffler, of Bedford County, is a retired educator and a lifelong Pennsylvanian.
COMMISSION SETS MEETING DATES, OKs PEREGRINE PLAN
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners tentatively scheduled a host of upcoming meetings, to be confirmed at a later date.
The commissioners gave approval to a working group meeting on Monday, Aug.12 in Harrisburg. Meanwhile, the September meeting is set tentatively for Monday, Sept. 23 and Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Delmont, Pa., in the Southwest Region. The January meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 26 through 28 in Harrisburg.
In other business:
- The commissioners gave unanimous approval to a peregrine falcon management plan crafted by the commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management and covering the years 2013 through 2022. Commissioners noted they discussed the plan at a previous working group meeting, and saw a presentation on the plan during Monday's meeting.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission