The Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Game and Fish Committee met last week to discuss a number of issues, including House Resolution 129 to study the feasibility of merging the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The resolution was introduced by Rep. Martin Causer, who represents McKean and Potter counties, and is chairman of the committee.
Gary Wert, of Grizzly Gary's Outdoors in Warren, said, "They have been talking about this for years, but nothing has been done yet. It would save money, and provide better services. The Fish and Boat Commission is $9 million in the hole, and we haven't had a local fish warden for two years. It (the merger) works well in New York, with the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation)."
State Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-65th, said, "I will support the request for studying the pros and cons of merging the entities, and the cost savings."
Asked if the merger might happen this time, she said, "I really can't say. I'm sure the resolution will pass, as Rep. Causer is the chairman of the committee. The committee must give the commissions 180 days to respond once the resolution is passed, and I'm sure they will be opposed to it."
Rapp said she and Causer work together often, as she represents four townships in McKean County in addition to Warren County.
Mike Fadale, a member of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Kalbfus Club said, "It's a horrible idea. The energy and money (of the two commissions) would be too diffused, and there would be horrible bureaucratic machination. I've had the good fortune to work with the Fish and Boat Commission on stream improvement programs with TU, and with the Game Commission through the Kalbfus Club. I don't think there would be significant savings."
Fadale added that various projects he and others worked on were expedited through the Fish and Boat Commission fast-tracking permits. He said the merger would result in "...paralysis through analysis for bureaucracies, whether they were grassroots, state, or federal." He stressed several times that those were his opinions, and not those of Trout Unlimited or the Kalbfus Club.
Other legislation being considered by the committee includes House Bill 451, which would allow the use of leashed tracking dogs to track and recover legally wounded or harvested deer and bear; House Bill 577, which would ensure that at least one resident of the Elk Management Area would receive an opportunity to purchase an elk hunting license each year; and House Bill 723, which would clarify that wild boars and other swine kept behind fences on game farms or hunting preserves are not defined as wild animals under the Game Code and not under the regulatory purview of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The determination will, of course, be up to the state House and Senate.