- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Russell Schleiden, the president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, barely disguised his dislike for a recent report titled “Managing White-Tailed Deer in Forest Habitat from an Ecosystem Perspective: Pennsylvania Case Study.” The report was sponsored by Audubon Pennsylvania (not the national Audubon Society) and something called the Pennsylvania Habitat Alliance.

The two groups want to weaken the game commission by merging it with other state commissions, which would reduce available funds and game management influence.

“This report is but one more voice in the broad spectrum of opinions and views on how the Pennsylvania Game Commission should manage deer,” Schleiden said. “However, this report’s claim that deer management can be better handled by a merged agency that includes the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and [the state’s] Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is an issue that was examined during the last legislative session and was proven to be merely a distraction from the primary objective: ensuring adequate funding for proper wildlife management.

“Also, the idea that a larger agency would serve the public and wildlife resources interests better is questionable at best. Since when has a larger bureaucracy ever been more efficient, effective or responsive?”

Schleiden’s problems are the same as any number of game commissions throughout the United States. Animal rights groups — usually small in number but large on making noise — are insisting they be included in wildlife management decisions because “wildlife belongs to all the people,” not just the hunters. The problem here is that those with the big mouths do not pay even the smallest of the bills. Hunters, boaters and anglers, however, do.

Said Schleiden: “My concern is that the authors of this report are merely trying to create a structure for managing deer that marginalizes hunters’ views and opinions. The game commission, as a state government agency, historically has directed deer management with input from the state’s varied stakeholders — hunters, biologists, farmers, foresters, landowners and local officials — and we believe that the current process is working.”

Safari money to be repaid — The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the more than $12,000 spent by four members of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to outfit a hunting safari to Zimbabwe will be repaid.

Board Chairman Daniel A. Hoffler, who paid for the air fare to Africa but not the equipment and clothing, said he “wanted to eliminate any hint of any impropriety.”

Hoffler and three officials of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries bought clothing, cameras, luggage, rifle cases and other equipment with their state-issued credit cards. All kinds of guarantees are now made that this never will happen again, but scuttlebutt has it that no one actually will be fired or charged with a crime in all this.

Who actually paid for the good old boys’ African safari? All the hunters, boaters and anglers of Virginia who have had to fork over their hard-earned money for various licenses, stamps, taxes and registration fees.

Watch those Virginia bills — Ed Rhodes, a Virginia legislative watchdog concerned with hunting and fishing changes, sent a heads-up about a number of bills in the Richmond hoppers. One, HB646, would make children 12-years-old carry a license if they were hunting. Most places, it’s 16 and up, not 12 and up.

Then there’s HB1756, which would create an involuntary manslaughter charge if you kill a person by driving a personal watercraft or motorboat while intoxicated. I’m in favor of that one.

HB2200 creates a special crossbow license (not needed), and HB2273 would prohibit “remote” hunting, a controversial method that was attempted in Texas in which you work a computer “gun” that activates a real gun, placed on a faraway motorized mount with a camera scanning an area rich in wild game.

This is a good bill. I hope it passes.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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