Pheasant propagation to return to 200,000 for 2012-13 season
HARRISBURG, Pa., May 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following recent approval of $18 million in gas lease agreements involving State Game Lands, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today announced the agency will direct nearly $7 million into third-party, interest-bearing escrow accounts to be used exclusively to purchase replacement acreage for the State Game Lands system. This initial, one-time payment of $18 million was for the bonus and rental consideration of restricted use of both the surface and subsurface of the leased areas of State Game Lands.
"Our policy continues to be that the wildlife resources and hunter and trappers, which may potentially be impacted by these leases, must be compensated by purchasing additional State Game Lands for wildlife habitats and public hunting and trapping areas," Roe said.
Roe also stated more than $11 million of this one-time payment will be deposited into the Game Fund, which is the agency's operating budget, to be used to, among other things, increase to 200,000 the number of pheasants the agency raises and releases for small game hunters, beginning with the 2012-13 license year.
As announced on April 12, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved four agreements involving oil and gas extraction on State Game Lands in Lycoming, Bradford and Tioga counties that will raise more than $18 million to support the agency's mission of managing all wild birds and mammals and their habitats for current and future generations of Pennsylvanians.
"The Game Commission, through Board actions, approved the purchase of nearly 10,000 acres to proactively fulfill our obligation to hunters and trappers to offset temporary recreation and habitat losses from oil, gas and mineral extraction previously approved on various State Game Lands throughout the state," Roe said. "Much of the money used for these purchases was the result of recent Board actions to lease agency-owned rights to gas, oil, coal and minerals on State Game Lands.
"By directing nearly $7 million into these interest-bearing escrow accounts, we will continue to fulfill our obligation to license-buyers and to meet our obligations in managing all wild birds and mammals for the Commonwealth."
Roe also noted that, of the agreements approved by the Board on April 12, two will have no impact on the State Game Lands, as all drilling will be conducted from sites already under lease on private properties adjacent to the State Game Lands.
"This means in two of the State Game Lands leases recently approved, there will be no surface disturbances, while the wildlife mission of the Game Commission will benefit from the much-needed revenues," Roe said. "Without a proactive approach to lease these State Game Lands, much of the Game Commission's potential oil/gas revenues would have been jeopardized by adjacent private oil/gas development that could have drained the Game Commission-owned oil/gas reserves.
"The 'do nothing' option would abdicate our fiduciary responsibility to both the state's wildlife resources and our license buyers, who fund the acquisition of State Game Lands."
As has been the policy of the Game Commission in the past, portions of these upfront proceeds will be used as third-party commitments to acquire more parcels for the State Game Land system and directly support a multitude of wildlife resource management programs throughout the state.
Roe said placing the remaining $11 million into the Game Fund will enable the agency to adequately fund many important programs and projects for wildlife and that license buyers expect from the agency.
"One of those programs will be a return to raising and releasing 200,000 pheasants for the 2012-13 season," Roe said. "While it is too late in this year's pheasant production cycle to increase production for the 2011-12 license year, we will be able to return to the 200,000 pheasant stocking level for the subsequent hunting seasons.
When the General Assembly last approved a license fee increase, which took effect in 1999, the Game Commission said that the revenue increase derived from that increase would need to be revisited in 2004.
"Now, more than seven years beyond that time, the Game Commission has continued to fulfill its mission by tightening its financial belt and making cuts in programs and services," Roe said. "Some of those cuts have been painful, such as the reduction in the agency's pheasant production program, which took effect in 2005. At that time, we cut the production level from 200,000 birds down to 100,000.
"When the cut was made in 2005, we pledged to revisit the decision if and when we received a license fee increase. Thanks to the revenues from these recent leases, we now have the resources to fulfill our commitment to our license buyers without having to wait for a license fee increase."
Roe stressed, however, that while the new revenues enable the agency to catch up on some of the valuable work that the agency does for wildlife and license buyers, it is by no means a solution.
"These are one-time payments that serve as a temporary solution to a long-term need, and do not reflect a steady stream of adequate funding," Roe said. "We recognize that everyone is facing difficult financial times, and we will do our best to make wise spending decisions with the monies entrusted to us by our license buyers.
"But the $18 million in new revenues is equal to what one year's worth of increased revenue would have been had a license fee increase been enacted in 2006. So, even with this one-time cash infusion, we still are four years behind where we should be if a license fee increase had been implemented."
At its April 2010 meeting, the Board unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Game Commissioner David Schreffler urging caution regarding development of Marcellus Shale gas resources on the agency's State Game Lands system and reiterating the Agency's policy to replace and potential disturbance to existing State Game Lands.
For details on the lease agreements approved by the Board, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "News Releases" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column and scroll down to "Release #046-11," which was issued on April 12, 2011.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission