Decline in hunting forces PGC to beef up oversight

Sales report from Sales of hunting licences have been steadily declining, prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission to take a closer look at its finances. Beyond making an effort to increase sales, DePasquale also recommends holding oil and gas companies accountable for lease payents.

Hunting is a major economic driver in Pennsylvania and the state’s auditor general has some suggestions for the Game Commission with regard to finances.

In a Thursday release about the audit of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the agency should strengthen its financial oversight.

“The Game Commission must take a careful look at how it manages all of its finances,” DePasquale said. “Beyond the nearly $73 million balance in the Game Fund, we found there was an additional $6.5 million in various escrow accounts – which the commission’s financial officer didn’t even have knowledge of the specific accounts, balances, or purposes until my audit.”

License sales, one of the key contributors to the agency’s revenues, are declining, according to the release.

“Because license sales account for about a third of total commission revenues, the agency should focus on retaining existing hunters and getting former hunters back into the field,” DePasquale said. “The commission is making an effort, but seems to be struggling to address a long-term decline in the sport of hunting – much of it apparently driven by changing demographics.”

DePasquale said the agency should also hold oil and gas development companies accountable for lease royalty payments.

“Essentially, the commission is relying on gas and oil companies to say how much money they owe,” DePasquale said. “I find the lack of fiscal controls to be particularly troubling at a time when oil and gas royalty revenues doubled, rising from $9.3 million in 2015 to $19.2 million in 2017.”

While oil and gas was a problematic area, timber was not.

“The commission generated $22.8 million in timber sales from 2015 to 2017 following the provisions in the Forestry Manual and Game and Wildlife Code,” according to the release.

DePasquale pointed to an area of opportunity for the Game Commission.

“Fleet management is an area in which the commission could save some of the $3 million it spends every year in transportation-related costs,” he said, noting that eliminating the fleet of vehicles in his own department helped save $877,000 annually.

“Hunting remains a key component of Pennsylvania’s economy, generating an estimated $1.6 billion in economic spinoff activity,” according to the release. “The sport supports thousands of businesses and related jobs.”