A vote on SB 1166 and SB 1168 will most likely occur within the next week. These bills would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, respectively, to set their own license fees. If these bills pass, the agencies would be able to better manage their wildlife conservation programs. As you may know, the PGC has recently eliminated biology aide positions due to lack of funding. Some of these aides were an important part of bird conservation work in the PGC. The agencies haven’t had a license increase in years because legislators don’t want to vote for a fee increase, and that hurts the birds!
Please contact your state Senator and ask him/her to vote FOR SB 1166 and SB 1168. You can find your legislator here.
In case you wonder why JVAS is so concerned about this issue, Scott Weidensaul has provided more reasons why birders should support these two bills. Scott recently posted this on the PA Birds Listserv:
The PGC hasn't had a license fee increase since 1997, primarily because the General Assembly has been holding it hostage to force lower antlerless (doe) license allocations, thus permitting an increase in the state's deer population. We have decades of research that shows, very clearly, how whitetail overbrowsing has badly damaged PA's forests, and especially populations of forest birds (like least flycatchers and wood thrushes) that depend on a dense understory for nesting habitat. The science is clear: We have too many deer, but the Legislature has been able to use the commission's lack of legal authority to set license fees as a cudgel to keep deer numbers higher than they should be. This bill could be a first step toward correcting that issue.
And as Laura pointed out, the PGC's current fiscal crisis has resulted in significant cuts in staff and programs, with the ax very heavily on nongame programs. One can argue about whether the agency puts an appropriate emphasis on nongame wildlife even under the best of circumstances, but these days birds are really taking it on the chin. And birders; the commission has said it may need to close Middle Creek to the public as a cost-saving measure.
Both agencies — the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission — need a more stable income stream to manage the wildlife they are mandated to protect for our benefit. These bills would remove a significant element of politics from the mixture, and deserve our support. Whether or not you're a license-buyer, please contact your state senator immediately at the link above, and ask them to support SB 1166 and 1168.
The PGC has done some remarkable work to help birds like the Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, Golden-winged Warbler, and many others increase their populations in Pennsylvania. Join us as we celebrate another year of commitment to bird conservation by both the PGC and Juniata Valley Audubon Society.
A "silent auction" also will be held to raise funds for conservation efforts supported by the JVAS. Members are asked to bring new or gently used nature-related items to donate for the silent auction. Please bring the items before 5:00 PM at the banquet. Books, artwork, pottery, native plants — anything related to nature will be auctioned. Bring your checkbook or cash to support this important fund-raiser!
We will order off the menu, so payment in advance is not required. However, we ask that you email or call JVAS Hospitality Chair Marcia Bonta by April 12, as we need to let Hoss’s know how many plan to attend. Please call Marcia at 814-684-3113 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Archery season for antlered and antlerless deer begins today statewide in Pennsylvania. Although archers tend to make very sure of their targets, it's still a good idea for anyone in the woods — birdwatchers, hikers, mushroom gatherers, etc. — to wear a blaze-orange cap at least, if not a vest or coat as well. In State Game Lands it's more or less mandatory, but state forests, state parks, and most other public lands are open for hunting as well. Later on in November, when regular rifle deer season comes in after Thanksgiving, non-hunters should probably stay out of the woods altogether on opening day and the first Saturday, and be very cautious and visible for the rest of the season. And turkey season, which is in November, is also a very good time to get shot if you're not wearing blaze orange. Gobbling and scratching in the leaves is also discouraged.
Every fall, the Pennsylvania Game Commission offers tours at select game lands around the state. This year, one of them is in our area: State Game Lands 108. Here's the relevant section from their press release:
Cambria County: Sunday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., State Game Lands 108, consisting of 23,086 acres. This 7.5-mile, self-guided, one-way, driving tour will highlight mountainous terrain and fall foliage on the Allegheny Front. Items of interest along the tour route include a rehabilitated strip-mined area, which has been converted to small-game habitat. The area also serves as a study area for grassland nesting birds, including the Henslow’s sparrow, a grassland species of special concern. Northern harriers and endangered short-eared owls also inhabit the study area. Also highlighted are tree and shrub identification, wildlife habitat food plots and a deer exclosure fence. Each tour participant will be provided a brochure with directions and information about various features along the tour route. The tour begins at the State Game Lands access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality, along State Route 53, in White Township. Watch for the sign. The starting point is just minutes away from the main beach at Prince Gallitzin State Park, where the annual Apple Cider Festival will be taking place on the same day. The tour will conclude on State Route 865 near Blandburg, in Reade Township. Game Commission land management, forestry, wildlife management, and law enforcement personnel will be on hand to explain the various habitat improvement projects on this SGL and to answer questions.