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  • administrator
    replied
    The PGC Strikes Again


    There was another fiasco at the PGC. I couldn't resist.
    Enjoy.
    Jim Slinsky

    Column 396

    The PGC Strikes Again

    Whoever said “truth is stranger than fiction” must have been from Pennsylvania. More specifically, they must have had a working knowledge of the PA Game Commission’s (PGC) law enforcement practices to motivate them into that literary moment. I didn’t and couldn’t make this story up. It is far beyond my imaginary capabilities and fictional writing skills. Frankly, this entire story is literally bizarre.
    A few weeks ago Intell/New Era outdoor writer Ad Crable wrote a “feel good” column about Ms. Pati Mattrick of Elizabethtown, PA. Apparently, four-years ago after a severe storm she found a newborn finch on her property. Evidently, it fell from its’ nest during the storm and didn’t even sport any feathers. The poor creature was probably moments from death. Ms. Mattrick nursed the bird back to health and strength within her home and a great relationship was fostered. She appropriately named the bird “Stormgirl”.
    This typical story of great American compassion should have ended right there, but it didn’t. Actually, the real story was just about to begin. Someone at the PGC read Mr. Crable’s column. Allegedly armed with a search warrant and accompanied by at least three armed Elizabethtown police officers, the PGC paid Ms. Mattrick a visit. Ms. Mattrick states she was barricaded in a room while a WCO ran through her house attempting to catch “Stromgirl”. Of course, the house finch was confiscated.
    Honestly, I am almost at a loss for words. We have seen this behavior before and it never ceases to amaze us. Who could forget the Sandy Reynolds fiasco and her captive serval cats? She had a federal permit for the felines and was applying for a state permit. The PGC solved that problem by confiscating her cats. And then, there was ‘Nutkin”, the pet squirrel. The PGC attempted to grab that potential menace to society before that situation became cataclysmic. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful.
    The PGC has defended their actions by claiming finches are migratory birds and they would be jeopardizing their Pittman-Robertson (P-R) funding by not acting in a swift and decisive manner. Total nonsense. The PGC has been jeopardizing their P-R funding for decades by financing their hardwood timbering operations with P-R money instead of executing comprehensive habitat projects. They seem to be able to talk their way out of that situation year after year.
    Once again, there are lessons to be learned from this preposterous situation. I truly hope our legislators have finally realized that when authority is granted, discretion must be limited and controlled. So often in these “the law versus the will of the people” or “the law versus common sense” scenarios, it is the abuse of discretion that is the culprit. It is an unfortunate part of human nature to abuse power once it is granted. It is an unfortunate part of government to accumulate more power once authority has been granted.
    There were a number of amicable solutions to the “Stormgirl” situation besides invading Ms. Mattrick’s home and her privacy. Some have suggested she could have been issued a temporary wildlife rehabilitator permit. Others suggested a warning or a fine to make the PGC’s point. In either case the heavy-handed law enforcement, home-invasion route was overkill to say the least. This is a bird that probably doesn’t weigh an ounce and at four-years old probably has exceeded all normal life expectancy. No harm would have been done to society or our P-R funding by allowing Ms. Mattrick to keep a common finch that she saved from certain death until the end of its’ natural life.
    One must question if the management of the PGC put a great deal of thought into their actions. Certainly the bad publicity from this fiasco far outweighs the danger of allowing one citizen to keep a rescued house finch in their home. Once again, the core problem is government’s abuse of discretion that gives all branches of government a black eye.
    In what appears to be a temporary lapse of sanity and common sense, the PGC apparently based their decision on what they “can do” and not what they “should do”. It is the only logical explanation for executing a search warrant with four armed police officers to confiscate a three-inch native bird.
    Now, there is only one official act left for the PGC to execute. They should return Stormgirl to Ms. Mattrick and apologize.
    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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  • administrator
    replied
    WMI Deer Audit Clobbers PGC’s Deer


    My latest column.
    Enjoy.
    Jim Slinsky


    WMI Deer Audit Clobbers PGC’s Deer Program

    You may have heard or read by now that the Deer Audit conducted by the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) was a complete vindication of the PGC’s deer management program. Unfortunately, I can’t stop anyone from rolling their own before they write a column. If you take the time to read this document, you will conclude that this is the biggest PGC embarrassment since the MAT Report.
    In very professional terminology, Scot Williamson, V-P of WMI and author of this audit, literally chopped the legs right off the PGC’s three-legged deer management stool. You’ve heard the spin; healthy deer, healthy forests and minimum human-deer conflicts. The last goal has somewhat morphed into stakeholder involvement or as we know it, Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC). Scot Williamson is a skillful writer and you must read the audit slowly and carefully.
    WMI advised eliminating healthy deer as a management goal. Counting fawn fetuses pulled from dead doe has been a poorly managed program since its inception. WCO’s hate doing it and it proves little. Our reproduction rate averages 1.5 now and it was 1.5 fifty years ago. Furthermore, it would take years to see a reduction in reproduction rates if we had too many deer. Actually, reproduction rates in PA are very stable indicating we have never been on the downside of the bell curve.
    WMI dedicated pages to forest regeneration issues and did a rather complete analysis. It quickly becomes obvious that PA’s forests suffer from a multitude of problems. WMI spoke freely about our highly acidic soils, the lack of fire and our poor forestry practices as major causes of failed regeneration. They acknowledged the mature sugar maple die-off caused by our acidic soils. WMI warned that if soil conditions don’t improve our oak forests will ultimately be replaced by red maple and black birch.
    Unfortunately, WMI stated that the “general consensus” in the scientific community is that deer are still the major cause of our regeneration failures. Our legislators didn’t buy that remark, especially after reading Mr. Williamson’s detailed analysis of our myriad of forest problems. Perhaps, Mr. Williamson isn’t aware that advanced regeneration is failing up and down the entire eastern seaboard. Furthermore, we didn’t pay Mr. Williamson to determine the “general consensus”. He was paid to uncover the truth by gathering scientific facts.
    The PGC received praise from WMI for establishing CAC’s and involving the public, but not without criticism. WMI recommends utilizing more scientific survey methods to reach a broader group of stakeholders. They recommended establishing a statewide CAC.
    Where the PGC took an additional major hit is their low harvest reporting rates and the resulting poor harvest estimates. It is absolutely critical to have accurate harvest numbers to plug into the deer model to estimate overall herd size. Additionally, WMI found that our deer model was inadequate to establish doe allocations. These are the exact allegations our sporting class has leveled against the Agency for decades. It is the garbage-in, garbage-out analogy in the flesh, or should I say, fur.
    Furthermore, our deer model is a homemade affair, responsive to some inputs and unresponsive to others. There is no nationwide accepted deer model when antler restrictions are in place. The three-year look-back procedure necessary to establish deer densities create a complicated model subject to error and widely varying estimates. Our legislators are currently considering mandatory deer harvest reporting legislation to improve the accuracy and credibility of the PGC’s deer management. WMI also suggested the publication of deer herd populations for each WMU.
    While all of the above is enough to shake 2001 Elmerton Ave from its foundation, WMI did categorize the PGC’s deer management as scientifically sound. During the hearing, which brought Scot Williamson of WMI before the House Game and Fisheries Committee, our legislators were astounded at how WMI could come to that conclusion. Frankly, parts of the deer audit could be categorized as masterful examples of contradictions.
    You can obtain a copy of this 90-page document for your reading pleasure. Call the PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee at 717-783-1600 for a copy. It is also available online.
    There is talk of having WMI back for an explanation of their contradictory statements. Our PGC Commissioners are reviewing this audit with great interest. The PGC is currently engaged in a strategy to reverse the changes adopted at the January Commissioner meeting. There is much happening in Harrisburg.
    However, at this moment in PA game management history, the WMI deer audit just clobbered the PGC’s deer management program.
    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com






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  • administrator
    replied
    Red Shirt>
    > If the red shirt thing is new to you, read below how it went for a man...
    >
    > Last week, while traveling to Chicago on business, I noticed a Marine
    > sergeant traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two
    > together.
    >
    > After we boarded our flight, I turned to the sergeant, who'd been invited
    > to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading
    > home.
    >
    > No, he responded.
    > Heading out I asked?
    >
    > No. I'm escorting a soldier home.
    >
    > Going to pick him up?
    >
    > No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Iraq, I'm taking him home to
    > his family.
    >
    > The realization of what he had been asked to do hit me like a punch to the
    > gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn't know the
    > soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier's family
    > and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days.
    >
    > I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for
    > doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do.
    >
    > Upon landing in Chicago the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the
    > following announcement over the intercom.
    >
    > "Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honor of
    > having Sergeant Steeley of the United States Marine Corps join us on this
    > flight He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family. I ask
    > that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to
    > allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will
    > then turn off the seat belt sign."
    >
    > Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the sergeant saluting
    > the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize
    > that I am proud to be an American.
    >
    > So here's a public Thank You to our military Men and Women for what you do
    > so we can live the way we do.
    >
    > Red Fridays.
    >
    > Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The
    > reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the "silent
    > majority." We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God,
    > country and home in record breaking numbers. We are not organized,
    > boisterous or overbearing.
    >
    > Many Americans, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize
    > that the vast majority of America supports our troops. Our idea of showing
    > solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this
    > Friday -- and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come
    > home, sending a deafening message that ... every red-blooded American who
    > supports our men and women afar, will wear something red.
    >
    > By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make the United States on every
    > Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the
    > bleachers.. If every one of us who loves this country will share this with
    > acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and family, it will not be long before
    > the USA is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once
    > "silent" majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the
    > media lets on..
    >
    > The first thing a soldier says when asked "What can we do to make things
    > better for you?" is. "We need your support and your prayers." Let's get
    > the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example, and wear
    > something red every Friday.
    >
    > IF YOU AGREE -- THEN SEND THIS ON.
    >
    > IF YOU COULDN'T CARE LESS -- THEN HIT THE DELETE BUTTON

    > Your E-mail and More On-the-Go. Get Windows Live Hotmail Free. Sign up
    > now.
    > --
    > Bruno Associates
    > P.O. Box 14825
    > Albany, New York 12212
    > Robert F. Bruno, Sr.
    > 518-281-8223
    > 518-312-5474
    > Fax:518-677-1007
    > rfbsr1@gmail.com
    > www.brunosystems.com

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  • administrator
    replied
    USP/PGC Deer Management Lawsuit Update

    Column 393



    USP/PGC Deer Management Lawsuit Update


    Most of you realize that any engagement of the PA Game Commission quickly and easily turns into an entanglement. Challenging government is no small undertaking. One only needs to look at the federal government and how it is reacting to the people challenging the new, national health care proposals. The terms “radicals”, “extremists” and “small vocal minority” must be in a government handbook explaining how to deal with the public when they become irate.

    In any event the Unified Sportsmen of PA’s (USP) lawsuit against the PGC for their indefensible deer management program is going down that government road of absurdity. This is temporary mind you and USP will overcome the nonsense. However, when you realize that the people of PA are paying the tab for the PGC and the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Tim Keating to play games, it can be quite frustrating.

    A light went off when AAG Keating responded to USP’s first set of lawsuit interrogatory questions. The PGC copied their entire website and submitted maybe a thousand pages as their answers. Absent the proverbial turnip truck, the PGC and Mr. Keating must believe USP is a conglomerate of mindless rednecks. Obviously, sarcasm and condescendence was their intent.

    When USP filed their second set of interrogatory questions, AAG Keating responded six weeks late and he objected to almost every question. Objected? This is the equivalent of a championship fight and your opponent will not step in the ring. Once again, let us not forget the people of PA are paying for their nonsense.

    While all of this was unfolding AAG Keating deposed Dr. Charles Bolgiano, Legislative Liaison for the USP, Mr. Steve Mohr, UPS President and yours truly. We all responded promptly and professionally and provided sworn testimony. Once again, the PGC has refused to step in the ring. AAG Keating has made a legal issue out of who can witness the PGC’s depositions and effectively stalled the entire process. Are you getting the picture? Obviously, the PGC doesn’t want to participate? USP was deposed three months ago.

    Add all of the above to the fact that AAG Keating keeps making the same objections with the court trying to get a dismissal by technical maneuvering. The PGC is furious that USP was granted standing over two years ago. They were under the erroneous belief that they were so independent that they couldn’t be sued. As one judge commented, “anybody can sue anybody”.

    Here’s my take on this fiasco. The PGC faces a dilemma. They would prefer not to go court or go on record in written form or with sworn testimony. If they are brutally honest about their deer management, they will lose this case. If they are deceptive and spin their testimony, they may be vulnerable to perjury allegations. They may be forced to throw some special interest people or each other under the bus to defend their management. In other words, handling this legal challenge in a prompt and professional manner could get real ugly for them. Who knows what some PGC VIP’s might say under the radiation of a sworn deposition?

    There is one other possibility. Perhaps, the PGC is waiting or should we say stalling until the deer audit is completed. They may have the hope that somehow they will be vindicated of all criticisms and use those findings to fight the lawsuit. This strategy also carries a great deal of risk. The audit may not go as they are hoping. USP could reverse this strategy and use the audit against the PGC, once it becomes part of the public record.

    If you are following all of this you should be asking yourself a question right now. If the PGC’s deer management is so solid, why are they playing games? As the so-called experts, why not climb into the ring and just walk right through USP? Why are they running?

    Of course, all of these legal shenanigans cost USP more legal fees, which is another PGC strategy. I heard the PGC not only intends to win this suit, but bankrupt USP in the process. This threat is the mark of a real classy agency and to think the AG’s office is helping them. I thought Tom Corbett was operating the AG’s office at a higher standard.

    I will keep you informed as this USP/PGC entanglement continues to play out. The only certainty in this entire matter is the people of PA will continue to pay the PGC’s legal bills.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

    Leave a comment:


  • administrator
    replied
    HSUS and PGC Go Hand in Hand

    Column 391



    HSUS and PGC Go Hand in Hand



    Just when you thought the PGC’s activities could not possibly get any more absurd, something just happened that should make PA hunters cry. Are you sitting down? Mr. Steve Smith the PGC’s Legislative Liaison visited PA House legislators with Ms. Sarah Speed of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)! Ms. Speed is the HSUS PA Director. Can you imagine that - the Humane Society? A real Romeo and Juliet story in the making for sure.

    The apparent reason for this extended interlude was HB 97. In the days leading up to the House Game and Fisheries Committee (HGFC) voting meeting, Ms. Speed and Mr. Smith went hand in hand (metaphorically, of course) and visited the members of the HGFC to show their unanimous support for HB 97. There must be something in the water over at Elmerton Ave.

    I probably don’t need to tell you the HSUS vehemently opposes all hunting. I probably don’t need to tell you they are extremely well-financed, sue at the drop of an empty casing, continuously propose prohibitive hunting legislation and have achieved the title of the most rabidly anti-hunting organization in the nation. Interesting that the PA Game Commission would partner with HSUS and visit our legislators. Obviously, there must be something attractive in this HB 97 that the HSUS wants. Or, the PGC has lost its’ ability to make a coherent decision. Maybe, the PGC is forming new partnership, as they say in Harrisburg. It wasn’t that long ago that the PGC formed a partnership with Audubon. I don’t need to remind you of where that lovely relationship ended. Let’s just say Romeo killed himself and Juliet took a pass to live another day.

    HB 97 has been controversial from the day SR Ed Staback introduced it. Our game violation penalties have not increased since 1987 and certainly some adjustment was justified. However, the bill started out tough, real tough. Felony charges for game code violations are not common in this country for various legal and social reasons. While some of you may feel that death by hanging is too kind for a poacher, most Americans would not agree. Poaching is despicable, but regardless of big fines and jail time, unfortunately it will continue.

    As the clouds of concern gathered over HB 97, SR Staback did what good legislators do – he listened and amended his legislation. The NRA, the Unified Sportsmen of PA and a number of prominent legislators offered valuable input. The bill that ultimately passed the HGFC is far better than the original, although some still hold reservations about certain parts of the bill. Actually, some old nagging problems in the existing Title 34 have been rectified. Personally, I am disappointed a “protection of self and property” clause wasn’t added. If you kill an elk or bear that came to close to you or was destroying your property you will still be prosecuted as a poacher. Theoretically, these kinds of cases will now be handled by county district attorneys and your rights will be upheld. I would have preferred new language to clarify these situations.

    While nothing in HB 97 can be construed as anti-hunting, the HSUS must see something in it as critical to their cause. If properly enforced and with the right temperament, HB 97 can be effective at whacking repeat offenders who get their kicks breaking and evading the law. If HB 97 is enforced with zeal and condescendence, it can push people right out of the hunting community. It only takes one bad and distasteful experience with PGC law enforcement to reshape that individual’s opinion of the PGC and hunting for life. If the PGC is going to threaten hunters that “you are going to jail” during investigations, HB 97 will be problematic. People are indeed innocent until proven guilty. Let us not forget 95 percent of our hunters do nothing wrong.

    When you put it all together game violators and HB 97 is our business. The legislation was written by a lifelong hunter, reviewed by lifelong hunters and voted on by lifelong hunters. The HSUS was not part of the process and we don’t need or want their input. For the PGC to partner with them and actually visit our legislators giving the appearance of harmony and peaceful co-existence is a disgrace and embarrassment. As with deer management, it may be time to take a good hard look at the management people over at Elmerton Ave.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 392



    That Controversial Deer Audit


    Never has there been an issue mired in so much misinformation than the current deer management audit recently awarded to the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI). Truthfully, this audit has become as controversial as our deer management. A few are still trying to stop the audit based on the allegation that it will be nothing but a whitewash of the current PA Game Commission’s (PGC) deer management plan.

    If we wind back the clock almost two years, an audit of the PGC’s deer management was the brainchild of the Unified Sportsmen of PA. State Representative (SR) Ed Staback was quietly discussing the idea with a few trusted colleagues. SR David Levdansky, a member of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), caught wind of SR Staback’s discussions and announced he was going to spearhead a deer audit. By Harrisburg protocol, this was not a classy maneuver.

    Shortly thereafter, SR Levdansky put out a list of parameters for the audit to investigate. Typically, the LBFC would generate a “request for proposal” (RFP) and solicit bids to perform the audit from across the nation. SR Levdansky’s attempt at constructing an RFP was rejected by the LBFC and the House Game & Fisheries Committee (HGFC). It appeared to be designed to whitewash the PGC’s deer management plan. The same document resurfaced two more times in the ensuing months. Once it was on PGC letterhead and once on Audubon’s letterhead.

    On 4/7/08 the House officially passed the deer audit by resolution and a vote of 201 to 0. Mr. John Rowe and Mr. Philip Durgin of the LBFC went to work and developed their own RFP. It is quite comprehensive and demanding. There are few similarities between SR Levdansky’s initial attempt and the final RFP. Actually, the final RFP requires an in-depth look at the PGC’s forestry policies and how it relates to deer management. Let us not forget the people of PA are paying for this audit as instructed by the PA House of Representatives.

    Only three entities responded to the RFP; the Wildlife Management Institute out of Washington, DC at $90,000, Mr. John Eveland out of Pittsburgh, PA at $265,000 and Applied Ecological Services (AES) from Illinois at $72,000. AES area of expertise is the grassland habitats of the Midwest. John Eveland did not meet the requirement of an out-of-state auditor. WMI was awarded the contract. They have been in business 80 years conducting such audits and related projects. The last project WMI conducted for PA was the “Deer Management Working Group” in 2001. The recommendation of WMI in that endeavor was to convert PA’s deer management into county “citizen task forces” taking the PGC out of the deer management business.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the PGC has deep concerns with this audit and it probably is the true cause of the continuous controversy. Mr. Steve Williams, the current WMI President and Mr. Peter Duncan a current member of WMI’s Board of Directors are both former PGC employees. They were both fired about twenty years ago in a scenario that is embarrassing for the PGC. Both went on to have glorious careers in other states. Mr. Steve Williams ultimately became the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Can anyone guarantee that the audit will be totally fair and completely objective? Not hardly. The whole process reminds me of going to court. One rolls the dice. There are guilty people walking around and innocent people in jail. However, let us not forget WMI is a long-standing, respected national organization with a national reputation to protect. They are also keenly aware that those looking over their shoulder are extremely knowledgeable in all facets of deer management. Certainly they realize a hocus-pocus deer audit will become a national embarrassment.

    Actually, WMI is in a difficult situation. Our current deer management program is indefensible and everyone knows it including the PGC. WMI has the tough job of putting their words together in a politically acceptable manner. Deer management is political, always was and always will be.

    My concerns are somewhat different than most. I suspect WMI will find plenty wrong with our deer management program. I just hope they don’t venture into pontification. I just hope they don’t conclude the PGC had no choice, but to kill the deer as the cheapest way to save our forests.

    Of course, we all realize now that killing our deer didn’t save anything, especially our forests.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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  • administrator
    replied
    A Moratorium on Land Buying

    Dear Senators and State Reps.



    My job is to make people think and hopefully, talk. Apparently, I am doing a wonderful job. :-)

    Enjoy.

    Jim Slinsky



    Column 390



    A Moratorium on Land Buying


    As you are probably aware, I am not a big believer in political coincidences. In politics, things happen for a reason. There is almost always a game plan or shall we say an agenda, that is driving new legislation or new policy that manifests itself incrementally. You have to be willing to play the “connect the dots” game to get a feel for where we are headed. In all fairness sometimes it is incompetence that is the devil, other times it is malice.

    Right now, I want to make you aware of a series of events that are unfolding that are contrary to the best interests of our Commonwealth. I will be criticized as a conspiracy theorist once again, but facts are facts. You can decide if the following is just a grand coincidence or a grand plan.

    It was only a year ago that the PGC was denying that the Marcellus gas under State Game Lands would ever amount to any significant revenue. During the same timeframe the PGC cried poor-mouth as revenues from license sales and timbering were falling. Allegedly, they needed a license increase to make ends meet.

    Today, as I write this, the PGC is in excellent financial shape. They have been signing gas contracts and millions of new dollars are now available. Most of this new money has been deposited in interest bearing accounts, not the Game Fund. Even more fascinating is the PGC has reinvented the barter game, accepting land in lieu cash. In just one example alone the PGC bartered approximately $6 million away for approximately 6000 acres. This is the equivalent of paying $1000 an acre, not the $400 an acre mandated by law. The examples go on and on. Thanks to the research of Dr. Dennis Wydra of the Unified Sportsmen of PA we can establish that anywhere from $17 to $23 million in new revenue should have been deposited in the Game Fund. The PGC has become masters at squirreling money away. The question is why? To buy more land? Why?

    It is a fact that we are losing bunches of hunters each year. I say it is the deer reduction program that is most responsible, the PGC will say it is the old age of our hunters. Why does the PGC need more land with a rapidly diminishing base of hunters? A quick glance at their press releases and it seems the PGC has become a resource extraction, land-buying agency, not a wildlife management agency. Why haven’t the millions of new revenue been spent on habitat improvements to enhance our tradition? Why aren’t we fixing our collapsing forests, another “fact” that can longer be denied? Why pursue a license increase when it is obvious this will only accelerate the loss of our hunter base? One must ask if anti-hunters are now running the Agency. It seems like the Agency is doing all it can to get itself merged.

    DCNR is really not any better. They have had an incestuous relationship with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, environmental groups and the grant system for years. The net result has been a land buying rampage and no deer. Interestingly, regeneration didn’t occur and the PA Wilds is in the tank. Once again, you must forgive me for implying an agenda, incompetence or malice.

    The hamlets of our rural areas have been imploding for the last decade. Willing sellers are being created at a constant rate. Our rural areas are depopulating and so is the tax base for the counties and municipalities. Our rural counties have turned to begging for state assistance. The welfare mentality is spreading its wings over the entire state.

    It may have started with the eradication of our deer, but the stakes are much higher for our rural residents. There is a bit of levity in this “connect the dots” game. As citizens sell their land and move out, we don’t need as many legislators to represent the people who no longer live there. I can remember joking with Senator Scarnati. “Joe, if this trend continues, soon you will be the only Senator from Erie to Susquehanna County”. At the rate we are going, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh politics will rule PA and there will be nothing our rural residents can do to stop it.

    None of the above is rocket science. It takes proactive legislators to correct the impending catastrophe. It can all start with a moratorium on buying any more land by our state agencies.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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  • administrator
    replied
    Another Lawsuit?

    Column 389



    Another Lawsuit?

    The PGC Commissioner selection process is one of the most absurd political systems in all of PA politics. Over the past eleven years I have addressed this topic before. The more you know about this distorted, unresponsive system, the more infuriating it becomes. I can think of at least one statewide sportsmen’s advocacy group that has had enough and just might inject themselves into the nonsense in an effort to resolve it.

    At the center of the controversy is PGC District 2, currently held by Roxane Palone and District 3, currently occupied by Russ Schleiden. Needless to remind you, these two are the King and Queen of the ongoing deer eradication program. They will be in my book for certain for future generations to remember.

    Wind the clock back eight years and Bob Schlemmer was the most qualified and popular candidate for PGC District 2 Commissioner. Governor Ridge wanted Roxane Palone and after a series of rejections by the Senate, Roxane Palone was ultimately confirmed. No one knows for certain what deals were made to get Roxane Palone Senate approval. The rumor mill churned for eight long years that Bob Schlemmer was promised the position when Roxane Palone finished her term.

    Rumors aside the Governor’s Sportsman’s Advisory Council (GSAC) gathered resumes and conducted interviews as if the position was wide open and available to the best candidate. About two years ago an excellent candidate, Mr. Randy Santucci started his charge for the position. He worked extremely hard traveling to Harrisburg, taking time off from his business, meeting with the right people. As so many predicted Bob Schlemmer was recently nominated by the Governor to the PA Senate. Obviously, Governor Rendell is proving that he is a man of his word. The name of David Putnam was sent by the Governor to the Senate to replace Russ Schleiden. We know nothing about David Putnam, but I seem to recall him as more of an environmentalist.

    The point being this entire selection process is conducted in secrecy. So tight lipped is the GSAC you would think they are a branch of CIA. I believe the members of the GSAC are sworn to secrecy to get the position. Tragically, the GSAC has actually evolved into a surrogate for the political process of giving us political candidates. We could dismantle the GSAC and get the same candidates.

    Yours truly has made a number of suggestions to involve the true stakeholders in this process. You know, the stakeholders that paid the PGC’s bills and salaries for the last hundred years, the hunters of PA.

    First, we could appoint the outstanding Randy Santucci to complete the term of Commissioner Dan Hill of District 1, who resigned a few months back. Randy has a camp in District 1 for 30 years. He knows it intimately. Second, we can put some sunshine on the activities of the GSAC. Our sportsmen need to know who is applying for these Commissioner positions with their resumes being posted on the PGC website for all to review. Third, any names sent by the Governor to the Senate should be posted in the PA Bulleting for 90 days to gather input from the people who pay the bills, our sporting class of PA. Fourth, legislation should be written to state that Commissioners “serve at the pleasure of the legislature and the sportsmen” and as such, we would involve the House in the process, not just the Senate. I recommended these changes to send a message to the Senate that a major storm is gathering if sportsmen aren’t permitted to participate in the process of selecting those who control the future of hunting in PA.

    Let’s look at this from a different angle. If PGC Commissioners served four year terms instead of eight and if sportsmen could reject the political operatives before they were seated, the Unified Sportsmen of PA would not have had to sue the PGC to put some common sense back in our deer management program. Under the current system with no input in the process, our sporting class may need to sue the Agency every few years to keep them honest.

    The Governor, the Senate and our Representatives need to think deeply about the situation they have created and permitted to deteriorate. Our citizens nationally and locally are screaming loud and clear for responsible, responsive government. Don’t be surprised if this pathetic Commissioner selection process manifests itself into yet another lawsuit.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    David and Goliath

    Column 387



    David and Goliath


    It has been some time since I sat down and pecked out a column. Between hunting season, my national radio show and a major house remodeling project, my life has been insane. I won’t bore you with the details. It seems everyone’s life these days’ borders on madness.

    While I intended to give you a rundown on all the latest issues, something has come up. The Unified Sportsmen of PA’s (USP) deer management lawsuit against the PA Game Commission (PGC) has gotten twisted and ugly. I need this entire column to explain the details.

    First, you must understand the PGC is still reeling from the court’s decision to give the USP standing. Based on the PGC’s reaction I believe they were under the impression they could not be sued. One of the judges commented that anybody can sue anyone. I sense the PGC is concerned that next year if sportsmen are unhappy, they could be whacked again. Of course, this is not a pleasant thought for those who are certain to be subpoenaed to testify under oath.

    The suit began with the USP and the PGC trading interrogatories. Frankly, I thought USP’s questions were a bit soft. I thought the PGC’s questions were downright silly. Both parties provided answers to this first round of questions. Here’s where it begins to get ugly. The Deputy Attorney General (DAG), Tim Keating wasn’t happy with USP’s answers. He wants USP’s complete membership list. He wants USP to tell the court how many deer there are in each WMU. One doesn’t have to be a judicial scholar to realize both of these requests are absurd.

    While all of this is playing out the PGC is pounding their chest to our legislators. They are predicting total victory and they will bankrupt USP in the process. We always knew the PGC boys weren’t the classiest, but isn’t a bankruptcy threat a bit over the edge? DAG Keating really isn’t any better. He is threatening to subpoena and depose the entire USP membership and put USP out of business. One can only imagine how proud our legislators will be if the PGC and the DAG fulfill their threats.

    Of course, all of this trash talk goes on because the suit doesn’t cost the PGC a nickel. When sued the PGC is considered a state agency and as such their legal defense is provided by the Attorney General’s Office. In essence, all of our citizens pay the PGC’s attorney fees. This is intriguing because when it comes to possible employment for all of our citizens, the PGC is considered an independent agency and as such is exempt from the Equal Opportunity Employment Act. Attorney General Tom Corbett wants to be our next Governor propelled by his fiscal conservatism. Maybe, it is time for him to have a talk with DAG Keating about the cost of deposing thousands of USP members.

    An additional twist to this story is the PGC’s current unreserved balance. The latest number I heard is $46 million about $12 million higher than expected. With this extra cash and the future resource potential on State Game Lands is it really necessary for the public to pay the PGC’s legal defense every time they get their toes in a wringer? Furthermore, these numbers make the hype for a license increase amusing.

    When you put this all altogether, USP is David and the AG’s Office is Goliath with the PGC in their deep, financial pocket. I suppose I will be accused of sour grapes if I suggested that the AG’s Office defended the PGC on a fair and level playing field. Continuously rejecting USP’s responses to any and all interrogatory questions is a transparent strategy to run-up USP’s legal bills. Threatening to depose hundreds or possibly thousands of people to testify in this case is pure nonsense designed to intimidate and play games. If the PGC’s deer management program is so sound, why wouldn’t they want to pursue the shortest, fastest, least expensive path to a resolution of this case?

    Anytime one goes to court, one rolls the dice. Good things and bad things can happen in court. With a concurrent deer audit pending, it appears the PGC and DAG Keating are even willing to risk statewide ridicule to win. Did I say concurrent? Please forgive me.

    I should have closed this column by asking if you have seen USP’s new slingshot.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    Column 388



    Anything But Science


    If one takes the time to look around the country and investigate the myriad of wildlife and fisheries management controversies in all states, one should get deeply concerned. To the casual and uninformed the heated debates appear to be nothing more than business as usual. Wildlife resource management always was and always will be, controversial.

    However, close examination reveals we may have actually transcended a new era. You’ve read the stories. Ban all trapping in Maine and Minnesota because of a possible incidental take of an endangered Canada lynx. Ban all bear hunting in New Jersey because the Governor hates hunting. Ban all bear hunting in Florida because Florida bear are a newly discovered subspecies. Stop all trout stocking in California because trout are predators and may impact the frog population. Poison out rainbow and brown trout because they are invasive species. Kill the deer in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri because they are destroying forest regeneration. (I may have missed a few states) State and federal experts are always on hand to tell us predators have no impact on wildlife populations. Really? The national press and their continuous condemnation of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska for culling their wolves fill the news doldrums. In New York coyote season actually closes so coyotes can give birth and raise their young. Huh?

    Out West as in Alaska and Canada, it is the wolf programs that are destroying our wildlife, our hunting and our ranching industry. Those western state wildlife agencies supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (or maybe controlled would be a better word) argue vehemently (except Wyoming) that wolves are beneficial as elk, deer, wild sheep, livestock and pet dogs and cats rapidly disappear. These are just a few examples of the madness; I could go on and on.

    Behind each of these stories and controversies we hear voices proclaiming that we must follow the path of science and science says we must go down this road. It is extremely difficult for some not to conclude that all of this is really the Wildlands Project unfolding right before our eyes. Others have said war has been declared on our rural residents and their way of life. And still others conclude the origins of these agendas are the International Association of Game and Fish Agencies and even the United Nations. That conclusion will have eyes rolling and you will be branded a conspiracy theorist for certain

    In reality the origins of the anti-hunting and anti-fishing agendas over the past ten years really don’t matter. They are real and they are happening. What is new is our state wildlife agencies are running out of money. Their programs have decimated sportsmen retention and recruitment. The traditional “customer” of these state agencies is realizing hunted species and his and her voices have been completely removed from table and the environmental voice has usurped their interests. In desperation the state agencies have appealed to their legislators for general tax fund financing, which has fallen on totally deaf ears. Legislators don’t want wildlife management as another line item within state budgets subject to economic down-turns and stimulus packages.

    On the upside all the nonsense may be drawing to a conclusion. State wildlife agencies are now being forced to make a choice. They can rebuild their bridges with our sporting community or they can bank on the environmentalists getting them general tax fund revenue. Our national economic crisis will probably force the agencies to see the light, sooner rather than later.

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but wildlife management as we once knew it is dead. We are currently in an era of total political management. It is not about science, it is about politics. The truth is politics now controls the science. Yours truly has hosted and produced one thousand radio interviews in the last thirteen years. I believe I have a handle on this one. Ironically, after one hundred years of financing the total recovery of our game and non-game species across this nation, our sportsmen are being pushed aside as an insignificant voice in the discussion of management. So, the next time you go to battle with your state agency over a management issue, don’t waste your time arguing science.

    Wildlife management across this country has evolved into anything, but science.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    HB 1214 Defeated in Committee

    Column 386



    HB 1214 Defeated in Committee



    Stranger things have happened in Harrisburg, but I can’t remember when or why. Last week HB 1214 was released by Senator Gibson Armstrong, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee to his committee for a vote. For the record all legislation passed by the House must pass the Senate Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate. The process is set-up to determine the cost of all new legislation to the Commonwealth.

    In the days preceding the vote the rumor mill was churning. We heard numerous amendments would be attached to HB 1214 in an effort to kill the bill. A license increase for the PGC was one of those amendments mentioned, but that didn’t happened. The legislation was presented to the Appropriations Committee as a clean bill, regardless of what your Senator who voted against the bill might be saying.

    The committee vote was 14 to 12 and the concept of changing PGC Commissioner’s terms to two (2) four-year terms instead of one eight-year term went down in flames. My prediction was it would pass unanimously based on the belief that the Governor was going to remain neutral in the matter. Apparently, he did not.

    All ten Democratic senators on the Committee voted against the bill. Senator John Wozniak of Clinton County led the charge. Their names are Senators Gerry LaValle, Robert Mellow, Lisa Boscola, Vincent Fumo, Sean Logan, Rapheal Musto, Michael Stack, Barry Stout, Christine Tartaglione and John Wozniak. This made little sense considering the bill was sponsored by a Democrat in the House, SR Dan Surra. Once again, we see party politics rise above the desires and interests of constituents.

    Four Republican senators joined the Democrats in killing this excellent piece of legislation. They are Senators Jake Corman, James Rhoades, Patricia Vance and Mary Jo White. These Senators were not really honoring the Governor’s wishes, but rather acting as surrogates for the PGC. It is common knowledge in Harrisburg that there is a group of Senators who will oppose any legislation dealing with reforming the PGC. On the upside we now know four of them.

    While all of this was playing out a coalition of influential Republican state representatives has come together ignited by the defeat of HB 1214. They now see quite clearly how corrupted the entire PGC Commissioner system has become. They now realize Governor Rendell wants eight-year terms for his “kill-the-deer” Commissioner selections. They also realize the intervention of DCNR Secretary Mike DiBernardinis in the Commissioner selection process isn’t going to stop voluntarily.

    At this point in the story I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you the caring senators who voted for HB 1214. They are Senators Gibson Armstrong, Robert Tomlinson, Dominic Pileggi, Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, Patrick Browne, John Gordner, Stewart Greenleaf, Roger Madigan, John Pippy, John Rafferty Jr., Bob Regola and Michael Waugh. I have personally met most of these Senators and they are stand-up guys. Senator Armstrong must be applauded for his courage to release HB 1214 as there was significant political pressure to bury this legislation. Senator John Pippy deserves an extra mention as he has set himself apart as a true champion of our sporting and constitutional rights. I know the man and I will tell you he does not waffle or ride fences.

    As for that coalition of influential Republican state representatives, they are pressuring Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati to confirm Mr. Randy Santucci as the next PGC Commissioner for District 2 to replace the outgoing Commissioner Roxanne Palone. I can assure you this would be a breath of fresh air. Ironically, if they are successful we will have a real sportsmen’s advocate on the PGC Board of Commissioners for eight years and not four.

    As many of my recent columns have ended, the future of our sporting class and our great hunting tradition lies in the hands of Senator Joe Scarnati. From his strategic and powerful position he can circumvent the games being played by the Rendell Administration and DCNR Secretary Mike DiBernardinis. He has within his control the make-up of our PGC Board of Commissioners.

    Senator Scarnati faces a tough reelection bid. Assuming he prevails, we shall see in January 2009 where Senator Joe Scarnati plants his feet.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    The Total Package

    Column 384



    The Total Package



    Recently, State Representative Ed Staback has refined his HB2205 commonly referred to as the “poaching bill”. SR Staback is committed to crack down on those guilty of repeated poaching violations. Poachers are a threat to our whitetail resource. I can not tell you how many repeat poachers we have. Soon, I will write the PGC and try to determine the magnitude of the problem.

    In any event, the current thinking is to make repeat poaching violations a felony. This is common in other states. The penalties are severe. Poachers will lose their gun rights, but at this time they will not lose their property. The rem forfeiture consequences of the first HB2205 have been totally removed from the revised bill.

    Rem forfeiture is an interesting legal principle. In essence, the law is saying the rifle someone used to poach an animal is as guilty of the crime as the individual; consequently the rifle is arrested, too. Rem forfeiture is extensively used in the prosecution of drug dealers. In those cases cars, boats, houses and other valuable property is confiscated on the belief that illegal drug money purchased them. This system has been operating since the early 1990’s and the federal government is now confiscating and selling billions of dollars of personal property every year. SR Staback has decided to postpone the rem forfeiture discussion for another day. He is currently focused on increasing the penalties for repeat poachers. I have briefly reviewed an analysis of the new bill, but have not seen the exact language. It is a safe bet that we are going to get a tough, new poaching bill.

    While all this is unfolding the Unified Sportsmen of PA (USP) is making some noise trying to broaden the coverage of this new bill. First, USP would like to see a “probable cause” clause inserted into Title 34, our Game Code. Our state and local law enforcement can not act without having probable cause. The PGC wants to have the powers of state and local law enforcement, so it would only be logical that they are required to act in accordance with our Crimes Code. Furthermore, protection against unwarranted search and seizure is a Constitutional right, not to be ignored by any law enforcement agency. How this plays out should be very interesting. With poaching being elevated to the felony level, the PGC will need to work with District Attorneys, not local Magistrates. District Attorneys are quite cognizant of how evidence is legally gathered. Constitutional rights adherence is paramount if any law enforcement agency expects to get a conviction.

    Secondly, USP would like to see a “protection of property” clause worked into Title 34. It probably should include “protection of self” language, as well. At issue are cases such as Art Gavlock and Robert Floyd, who shot elk attacking their property. These people were pursued under Title 34 as poachers. Obviously, when someone shoots an elk in their yard while that elk is destroying their property is hardly a poaching incident. These gentlemen promptly called the PGC to have the elk removed. Unfortunately, in cases such as these the individual has to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees defending themselves against poaching charges. Once again, defending one self and property against animals and humans is a Constitutional right. If you dig into Title 34 you will find clauses that are in direct conflict with your Constitutional rights.

    Actually, I am beginning to feel sorry for SR Ed Staback. He set out to put some teeth in our poaching penalties and people are coming at him from all angles. Once again, retired SR Bruce Smith must receive some of the blame for this dilemma. For twelve years SR Smith blocked all legislation intended to deal with some of these long-standing problems.

    My only suggestion to SR Staback at this time is to develop companion legislation that addresses these other PGC problems. The PGC also has to decide how important HB2205 is to them and whether they are willing to give a little to get a little. SR Staback can also incorporate these additional concerns into one bill and pass the total package. Whatever he decides the PGC’s response will be consistent.

    They will only support the legislation that increases their authority.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 385



    The Coming Crossroads



    Things are a little tentative in Harrisburg right now. Many legislators are deeply concerned about their reelection bids. We see this at the national level and across the entire political landscape. The public is spitting mad. The public is accusing our legislators of serving themselves before they serve the people. The public is sick and tired of increasing taxes, laws that violate their constitutional rights and agencies that act upon the best interests of special interests and ignore the wishes of the silent majority. It is potentially one of those “throw the bums out” election years. This conundrum has our politicians scrambling.

    In our little world of the outdoors there is a crossroad issue, House Bill 1214, which fits perfectly into this scenario and embodies the frustrations of our voting, sporting class. This little gem was sponsored by SR Dan Surra from the St. Mary’s area, which is void of deer and harbors some of the most passionate anti-PGC sentiment in the Commonwealth. Actually, that is not totally accurate; the homeboys across the state are extremely frustrated and eager to pull the trigger or shall we say in this case, the lever (voting).

    House Bill 1214 simply changes the terms of PGC Commissioners to two (2), four-year terms rather than one, eight-year term. To serve the second four-year term will require Senate reconfirmation. Some have begun to call this requirement a “performance review”. Actually, our sporting class will begin to scream in the third year if a Commissioner has not voted sensibly. If he or she has made fair and balanced decisions, a second term will be a shoe-in. If not, their four years of fame will be over.

    HB 1214 passed the House by a margin of 201 to 0. Obviously, that is a powerful statement and tells you exactly which side of this issue our state reps come down on. Our House of Representatives want a more responsive and responsible Board of PGC Commissioners, too.

    Once again, the obstacle of reform is the PA Senate. HB 1214 did pass the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee (SGFC) unanimously, but somewhat begrudgingly. I can think of three Senators who are working against this bill, but I will withhold their names for the moment.

    After SGFC passage, this bill was parked in the Appropriations Committee for months. It was to come of the Appropriations Committee on September 23, but it was blocked by one Senator. It is now scheduled to come out of Committee on October 6 with a full Senate vote by October 8. If this opportunity is blocked again, the bill is dead for this year and will need to be reintroduced in January, 2009. The political maneuvering in Harrisburg is currently fast and furious. With an election only weeks away, the stakes are also quite high.

    Senator Joe Scarnati can put an end to this nonsense. As Senate Pro Tempore he can make a few phone calls and rattle a few cages. He told me personally he supports the concept and supports the bill. It probably wouldn’t hurt if he heard from you.

    The main protagonist in this fight is just a few of our current PGC Commissioners. Unfortunately, the Agency is lobbying on behalf of those few Commissioners through Mr. Steve Smith, the PGC’s so-called Legislative Liaison. Once again, sportsmen’s license revenue is being used to lobby against sportsmen-generated reforms.

    We one steps back and views the landscape, HB 1214 is a crossroad issue for our sporting class, our PGC Commissioner system and our PA Senate. Will the Senate begin the process of turning around our draconian Commissioner system by ending the antiquated eight year terms? Does the Senate have the courage to do the right thing in the face of intense lobbying by the PGC? If the bill is blocked again, will our sporting class have the resolve to hold those few Senators accountable on Election Day?

    The retiring Senator Gibson Armstrong is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The fate of the bill is in his hands. He must ignore those few Senators who operate as surrogates for the PGC and get this one on the Senate floor for a vote without further delay.

    By the way the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs opposes this progressive legislation. The Unified Sportsmen of PA were the prime movers and shakers on this one.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    The Gas War Heats Up

    Column 382



    The Gas War Heats Up


    There is never a lull in Harrisburg. The political controversies seemingly never end. The deer management debacle is still unresolved, the PGC continues to push for a license increase, but gas revenue potential has now become the hottest topic in town. The gas war is sure to be extra heated. This one is about money, big money.

    The DCNR and the PGC are in low gear on this one. Leasing and drilling have taken off with private landowners. The gas extraction companies are spending millions on this project. Stories of private landowners getting $1000, $2000 and sometimes even more per acre to lease their land are quite common. Do the math. If an old hunting club with 1000 acres and no deer can get $1000 an acre in a gas deal; well, I guess some homeboys will be hunting Africa next year. And, the leasing dollars are actually the small part of the deal. Contracts paying 12%, 17% and 25% royalties are materializing, as well. Some lucky landowners will be making money while they’re sleeping.

    DCNR is undergoing an identity crisis within this debate. That word “conservation” in their name confuses the hell out of them. They did recently put out 73,000 acres for bid to the gas extractors. This is less than 4% of their total land holdings. I’m told their environmental requirements to drill will be tough, real tough. More than a few legislators are wringing their hands thinking about the revenue potential for the state held under DCNR lands. Unfortunately, DCNR is not on that page. They are still talking about elk, wilderness and the PA Wilds Program. Sometimes, I think DCNR believes PA is Montana. I suspect DCNR may soon be wishing they had some hunter support to stop the drilling craze on State Forest Lands. They should have done some deep thinking before they eradicated the deer. Don’t kid yourself. DCNR has known of the gas deposits for a long time.

    The PGC is on a different page. They have testified at various hearings and meetings that their sub-surface rights on State Game Lands are minimal and thus, gas revenue potential dollars are minimal. I’ve heard of PGC claims that their gas revenue potential is in the $2-$3 million a year category. More than a few people are not in agreement, especially gas industry people. Their projections are quite a bit higher to say the least. The PGC is claiming they can not make ends meet without a license increase, regardless of their gas potential. There is zero sympathy for the PGC amongst our hunters and legislators. This is an agency that has not listened or responded to hunters’ complaints for the last decade. They have thumbed their nose to legislators, too. Like DCNR, the PGC should have done some deep thinking before they eradicated the deer.

    Without a doubt this unfolding gas war will be the most intriguing and complicated issue to rock PA in the last two hundred years. The outcome will determine who and what PA really is. It will establish the common sense of our legislators and their resolve to do what is right for our people and our woods, water and environment. It may redefine the direction and future of DCNR and the PGC. The ramifications will go far beyond these initial debates and affect our state’s overall economy, our schools, our infrastructure, our tax policies and so much more. Our legislators have their work cut out for them. We may see the DCNR and the PGC reorganized before this is all over.

    As citizens and sportsmen all of the above is our business. Absolutely, no one wants to return to the rape and run days of an earlier time. Conversely, few want to let potentially billions of gas dollars remain untouched because of so-called endangered species or species of special concern or imperiled species.

    Frankly, I was hoping this scenario evolved into receiving a royalty check from the PGC. As a hunter and a landowner of State Game Lands, I was banking on all new shooting ranges, habitat remediation projects, a statewide liming program, new PGC specialists to manage deer, new WCO’s to combat the poaching epidemic and a monthly royalty check. That maybe wishful thinking, but we have made some progress in the past months.

    I believe DCNR and the PGC now realize that new Hummer vehicles with gold hubcaps and gold trim are not in the cards.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 383



    Using Pheasants for Bait



    There is an old expression that I find myself using quite often these days, “desperate people do desperate things”. When those same people made the mistakes that created their desperate situation, we asked ourselves, “was it malice or incompetence”, another brilliantly conceived cliché. Closely monitor our state agencies for even a brief period and clichés will flow from your lips without really being aware that you are speaking in clichés.

    The PGC has been telling us for a number of years that they desperately need a license increase. It has been ten years since their last hike. They argue that everything has gone up from gasoline to the cost of shoelaces. Hence, they deserve an increase. They never seem to mention that the PGC is the most resource rich game management agency in the nation. They always seem to compare our license costs to states without any resource extraction potential.

    It has been a number of months since I looked at the PGC numbers, but I recall their annual budget at approximately $66 million. They want to have an unreserved balance (working capital) of $33 million or 50% of their annual budget in their account at all times. This is a great plan, but not always possible in government or the private sector. I remember when the Fish Commission needed their license increase. I recall their unreserved balance dropping to single digits, barely two months of working capital. These past two years the PGC did crank-up their timbering. Timber prices have now fallen, but I recall they were at or very close to that magical $33 million back in the spring. With license revenue now coming in, the PGC is fine for another season at the very least. With gas revenue on the horizon, they are not in a desperate situation.

    With that said, watch the newspapers closely and listen to the rhetoric of your WCO at your next club meeting. The PGC has put their plan together and they are out selling it to sportsmen, outdoor writers and our legislators. First, they are looking for major kudos for eliminating the first week of doe season in four WMU’s. Hardly a major concession, but incredibly the PGC is spinning this into “we listen to sportsmen”. Bullpucky is the strongest word I can use in this column, but I don’t believe the average hunter is going to agree to dig deeper in his pocket based on this insignificant change.

    Equally as humorous is the scuttlebutt that the PGC is now going to launch a full-scale pheasant restoration program. Allegedly, a $25 pheasant stamp will be created to finance the effort. I couldn’t find any details on their website, but reliable sources insist this is real and is going to happen. The PGC has been talking about pheasant restoration for the past fifteen years and has really dragged their heels. No one knows for certain if it will even work. I think the operative words here are “$25 pheasant stamp”. It is always about money.

    Look for the PGC’s surrogates to mount a statewide campaign to try to convince hunters that we should move beyond the deer issue, give them credit for these changes, kiss and make-up with the PGC, support their license increase and live happily together from this point forward. I don’t sense our sporting class is in a forgiving mood. The majority of our hunters and legislators are still ripping mad. I’ve heard legislators say, “I don’t care if they go bankrupt, I am not voting for a license increase.” With an election pending and only two legislators supporting their license increase, things look grim for the PGC. Throw in a pending deer audit and a lawsuit both engineered by the Unified Sportsmen of PA and the PGC’s situation becomes pathetic.

    Let’s be honest. The PGC carried-on herd reduction far too long and literally burned their bridges with hunters and legislators. They are far too stubborn and arrogant to embrace meaningful deer management changes. They are in deep trouble and only a heaping plateful of crow “may” begin the reconciliation process. The old cliché “they have made their own bed and must now sleep in it” comes to mind.

    Unfortunately, at this moment in history offering pheasants as bait for a license increase just isn’t going to get ‘er done.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    Same Old, Same Old

    Column 380



    Same Old, Same Old


    You need not have a PhD in political science to realize we need shooting ranges to exercise our constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights. Yes, you can now change your tone of voice when you discuss the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has made it official, although their 5-4 vote is not a panacea. The controversies will continue for guns and shooting in just a different form.

    On that note there is a controversy in Brady Township in Clearfield County that may have the significance of “Heller vs. Washington, DC”, but this time a state court may decide the future of your shooting rights. I may be laying it on a little heavy because this latest shooting debacle isn’t in our Supreme Court yet, but we could be going down that path.

    For all of his adult life Mr. Olan London has shot his firearms on his property. He has been a resident of Brady Township for forty-three years. He has a few benches beside his house where he, family and friends can shoot. Brady Township is classic, rural Pennsylvania where neighbors are “down the road a piece”. The area is also the home to numerous gun clubs, hunting camps and a skeet club that holds competitive shoots. This is PA at its’ finest in my judgment. Shooting is part of our rural culture. Brady Township does not have an urban sprawl problem.

    About three years ago Mr. London began improving his range. He added a few benches and improved his backstops. He does not charge anyone to shoot at his range. Actually, it is not open to the public; you must be invited to shoot. VIP’s from the township can be seen at this range.

    Recently, the Brady Township supervisors began to focus on Mr. London. Led by their President, Mr. Lester Wachob, the supervisors insist Mr. London’s range is a commercial operation. They recently wrote an eight-page shooting ordinance dictating construction, operating conditions and safety rules. Naturally, the cost to comply with these new rules is so prohibitive, Mr. London had to make a decision, stop shooting or go to court and fight them. He chose the latter.

    We have all heard about the “grandfather clause”. While I have never actually seen the statutory language, we know instinctively that it is unjust for newcomers to move in and tell the old-timers you must stop farming, hunting, shooting, riding your ATV, etc. As a society we haven given our seal of approval to grandfathering certain activities, whether they be for pleasure or profit. In many of these scenarios private property rights become an active part of the debate.

    However, the Brady Township versus Olan London doesn’t quite fit that conventional mold. The township supervisors led by Mr. Lester Wachob are not pursuing the other multiple shooting activities in the township. No one is complaining of noise. What we have here is township supervisors or maybe just one supervisor focusing on one man, Mr. Olan London. Mr. London’s attorney will use the equal protection clause to defend his client. It is not legal to single out one person, one property or one business and overlook all others participating in the same activities.

    These stories of citizens standing up against government and asserting their rights have become quite common these days. In the litigation against shooting, the scenarios have truly become, same old, same old. I suppose we could say it is a sign of our times. However, there is room for legislative improvement.

    The state does not permit counties, municipalities or townships to regulate the purchase or ownership of firearms. To do so would cause chaos. Isn’t it time to look to the future of personal shooting and shooting ranges? Left for township supervisors to decide are we not destined to have ranges closed down methodically albeit gradually across this Commonwealth? Isn’t it time to look at passage of the “Shooting Range Protection Act”? Shouldn’t the state establish some guidelines for those who enjoy the legal, cultural pastime of shooting on their own property? Is it fair for Mr. London or any other citizen to spend their money to defend themselves against anti-gun neighbors and/or anti-gun township government? Mr. London is actually symbolic of the bigger problem.

    Isn’t it time ask the state legislature for umbrella protection to make certain shooting will not be regulated to death in PA?

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 381



    Something is Terribly Wrong



    You may not be aware that the PA Senate recently confirmed a new PGC Commissioner, Mr. Ron Weaner to fill the position previously held by Commissioner Steve Mohr. Mr. Mohr retired from the Commission and went on to become the President of the Unified Sportsmen of PA (USP). This in itself says volumes about our Commissioner state of affairs. I haven’t met Mr. Weaner, but I did see his resume. Claiming he is connected at the hip to the PGC (the agency) would not be a stretch. Mr. Weaner is a farmer and we all know how much farmers love deer. Something is terribly wrong with our system.

    In the months preceding the confirmation of Ron Weaner, Dr. Charles Bolgiano from the USP spent considerable days in Harrisburg speaking with Senator Joe Scarnati and Senator Charles McIlhinney. USP wanted HB1214 passed before any new Commissioners were appointed. Our license buying hunters want to have input into any new PGC Commissioner appointments. It seems no matter how extensive the interview process by the Governor’s Council has become, we get PGC Commissioners that can’t wait to kill more deer. Something is terribly wrong with our system.

    In the course of doing my national radio show, it has become obvious there are Commissioner problems in other states. The deep involvement of governors and the fact that special interest dollars concentrate in the Senate of every state, dooms the selection process to smoked-filled backroom politics. Objectivity by our new Commissioners has become as difficult to find as a deer on State Game Lands. The fact that sportsmen provide 100% of the financing for the agencies has little impact in the selection process. Something is terribly wrong with our system.

    Nevada operates under a different framework, which certainly deserves some consideration in PA. Nevada has nine game commissioners, but five of them are allegedly from the hardcore hunting community. The other four represent farming, ranching, the public and lastly, a so-called conservationist. In theory, an anti-hunting, kill-the-deer agenda can not gain traction in Nevada because five commissioners represent the hunting community. While their design is well-intentioned, in reality, Nevada’s system has been corrupted for the last twenty years. It seems those five Commissioners representing hunters must still pass Governor and Senate approval. Those so-called hardcore hunters have not represented the hunting community, but have actually evolved into representing the pro-predator, environmental agenda. Something is terribly wrong with their system.

    Right now, PA has one commissioner that has consistently fought for sportsmen’s rights, Mr. Tom Boop. Occasionally, he is joined by Commissioners’ Jay Delaney or Dave Schreffler when it is time to vote. Consequently, kill-the-deer season and bag limit votes by our Commissioners pass by a 7 to 1 or 6 to 2 margin. Our sporting community is just flat-out outgunned. Something is terribly wrong with our system.

    In the coming months Commissioners’ Russ Schleiden and Roxane Palone will be retiring. One man I know of so far has enthusiastically stepped forward to fill Ms. Palone’s seat, is Mr. Randy Santucci from the Pittsburgh area. Randy is a hunter. He wants to make a difference. He is extremely knowledgeable and wants to represent sportsmen’s interests. Randy is engaged in something quite unique to make his mark on PA’s hunting history. He is bringing the National Scholastic Sportsmen’s Program to PA. This organization is bringing hunting and fishing into our public schools on a national level. Mr. Santucci is spearheading the program in PA working directly with the Founder, Mr. Cliff Flournoy. This is an unprecedented effort way out in front of the Commissioner want-to-be pack. Randy Santucci’s Commissioner appointment will be something very right about our system.

    The bottom line is a structure change is needed in the manner in which we select Commissioners. The Council can reduce the applicants to the most competent, but our sporting class deserves an opportunity to review all the candidates. It is unacceptable that the Council’s picks must endure an interview by DCNR’s Secretary Mike DeBerardinis. DCNR has no authority to manage wildlife and our PGC Commissioners manage wildlife.

    As for that Senatorial maneuver by Senator Scarnati and Senator McIlhinney of ignoring the pleas of the USP, the largest, fastest growing sportsmen’s advocacy group in the state, I have a hunch it did not go unnoticed by USP. Although, our Senators’ total disregard for sportsmen’s rights conclusively proves my point.

    There is something terribly wrong with our system.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    USP Deer Lawsuit Moves Forward

    Column 378



    USP Deer Lawsuit Moves Forward


    On June 16, 2008 the Commonwealth Court of PA made their decision official. It rejected the preliminary objections of the PA Game Commission and granted the Unified Sportsmen of PA their day in court, so to speak. Judge Robert Simpson wrote the majority decision.

    We all realize that anytime you go to court, you roll the dice. The old cliché` ‘there are innocent people in jail and guilty people found innocent” is unfortunately true. Ours is the best judicial system in the world, but it is not perfect.

    Unified and the PGC have their work cut out for them. The PGC has thirty days to answer the allegations set forth in the Unified complaint. Afterward, Unified must prepare a list of questions, or interrogatories for the PGC to answer. PGC personnel will be asked to provide depositions on camera for the record. There will be cross-examinations of testimony. Ultimately, as the substance of the case unfolds, USP and the PGC will probably end up in court. It is safe to say the entire deer management world is watching. Deer managers in other states are concerned their decisions may be challenged if USP is successful. Hunters are watching nationwide to see if challenging the policies of a state resource agency has the potential for success in their state.

    Let us not forget USP sued to stop only the doe seasons on State Game Lands and State Forest Lands. They have asked the court to provide injunctive relief and halt the killing of does on public land, not private land. The PGC has admitted repeatedly that they do not know how many deer we have in the Commonwealth. Yet, they have once again in 2008 issued about 860,000 doe permits with a two-week concurrent buck and doe season. It is Unified’s contention that the resource is literally being destroyed on our public lands. The PGC does not separate public from private land doe tags and many believe that doe tags are being utilized disproportionately on public land. This leads to the age old problem of over-harvest on public land and under-harvest on private land. Most private land hunters are very cautious about how many does they take off their land. They want to be certain enough deer are left to perpetuate the herd for next season. The PGC and DCNR apparently do not utilize the same logic.

    While this entire case is unprecedented in our lifetimes, there is a story within the story. Never before have our PGC deer managers been subjected to cross-examination. Our PGC Commissioners never held their feet to the fire to prove their deer management policies were sound. This time there are legal consequences. Making false statement under oath is perjury. Speaking in generalities and guessing at causes and effects will not suffice. The case has the potential of finding the exact people who dreamed up the current deer management plan.

    While the legal case plays out, hopefully the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee will find a team to conduct the legislatively mandated deer audit. The court will not need to fully accept USP’s or the PGC’s numbers. A staff of national experts will crunch the numbers and provide those details. This should be very interesting.

    When we step back and look at the big picture someone or some entity suing the PGC for their deer management was inevitable. The politics had evolved, or should I say deteriorated to the point that the PGC would not listen to reason and the minds of our PGC Commissioners were completely closed. Our Senators were disinterested in the debate being heavily influenced by the PGC’s Legislative Liaison and special interest groups. Only a segment of our House of Representatives had the integrity and knowledge to realize something was terribly wrong. Thankfully, a large segment of the House has a conscience.

    Hopefully, another positive may come out of this legal battle. For decades the PGC has declared they “own the wildlife” of PA. They state hunting is a privilege and as such sportsmen have no right to question their management policies. This is a throwback to the 1930’s when hunters were considered mere Neanderthals in red wool clothing carrying a modern firearm.

    Of course, hunters have long-realized times have changed. I believe the PGC is about to come to that realization, as well.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 379



    Which Resource First?



    Over the years I am certain you have heard the mantra “resource first”. The PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs is notorious for promoting this slogan in the deer management debate. Recently, Tim Schaffer of the Fish Commission has been utilizing these ambiguous words in regard to trout stocking. Our House Game and Fisheries Committee has already responded with curative legislation and the PGC and the PFBC are not real happy.

    What does “resource first” really mean, you say? In theory it means the well-being of any species comes first before all other considerations. It means the social, economic or recreational benefit of managing a species is secondary to the long-term health of a species. It implies that we must take the moral high ground for the sake of the species even if we are unhappy with the numbers that are available for recreation or any other purpose. I am getting that warm and fuzzy feeling all over my body, but in truth, “resource first” has deep political roots and shallow scientific roots.

    In the deer debate it was a natural to ask “which resource first”. The proponents would argue the deer must die to save our forests. That sounds like the forests are the real resource we are considering first, not the well-being of wildlife. Of course, the logical mind would state we should be doing habitat improvements so we can have both, healthy wildlife and healthy forests. That concept fell on deaf ears.

    Now the Fish Commission has announced the “resource first” game plan for our stocked trout streams. Tim Schaffer has let it be known that any stream that has even marginal natural reproduction of trout will be cut from the stocking lists. Of course, everyone knows our stocking program is the financial backbone of the Fish Commission, as it is in many states. Obviously, the demise of the stocking program will have the same effect as killing the deer; a rapid decline in license sales and the financial well-being of the PFBC.

    A few months ago, our Fish Commissioners fired PFBC Executive Director Doug Austen for this precise agenda, but Governor Rendell intervened. My sources tell me, if the PFBC proceeds with this agenda, he will be fired again. I smell a showdown on the horizon.

    While all of this is playing out, our House Game and Fisheries Committee is ahead of the curve. Recently, the Committee passed unanimously HB2381. The prime sponsor of this bill was SR Mike Hanna, but he had enthusiastic, bipartisan support. This legislation eliminates former PGC WCO’s and/or former PGC employees from becoming PGC Game Commissioners. It also requires the PGC to manage wildlife scientifically with “equal regard” for the social, recreational and economic impacts. Bingo.

    With Tim Schaffer floating “resource first” in the legislature, HGFC Chairman Ed Staback sponsored and put forth in Committee HB2672. It passed unanimously. It is essentially the same as HB2381 without the Commissioner language. The Fish Commission may soon be required to utilize “best management practices” and manage fisheries scientifically with equal regard for social, recreational and economic impacts. These two pieces of legislation are almost as powerful as rewriting the mission statements for both agencies.

    At this point I must tell you that our House of Representatives get it. I can not speak for our other contentious issues, but in the arena of game and fisheries the level of bipartisan understanding and cooperation is at an all time high in my ten years of tracking them. Chairman Ed Staback has been terrific and Minority Chairman Sam Rohrer has put common sense before politics, something we expect, but seldom receive from the legislature in general. So far, we have a House that is working. I wish I could say the same for the Senate.

    An issue that is completely undiscussed in all of this madness is the resource of revenue. The PGC and PFBC are very good at putting their hand out for more revenue, but their actions speak differently. One can conclude from their actions that license sales are of little concern to both agencies, but fulfilling a political agenda has taken hold at any cost. There is no other excuse for the demise of our deer herd and this new, “resource first” trout stocking philosophy.

    When it comes to deciding which resource comes first, obviously both agencies have become terribly confused.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





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    The River Loses Its' Godfather

    Column 376



    The River Loses Its' Godfather


    This will not be an easy column to write. I have been teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown for more than a week. Mr. Ted S. Miller, 46, affectionately known as “Teddy” passed away on June 3, 2008. He was my dear friend for 14 years. He will be missed by sportsmen across this great Commonwealth.

    Teddy was the Founder of the Lehigh River Stocking Association (LRSA) in 1989. Various sportsmen’s groups had stocked the Lehigh River since the 1930’s, but all of them came and went. The LRSA has not only survived, but prospered over their almost 20-year existence. They put more than a million of trout in the Lehigh River and have emerged into a premier conservation organization known statewide. They sued the Army Corps of Engineers for friendly, cold water releases from the Francis Walter Dam. They proved the Lehigh can hold trout over the warm summer months. Their tagging program revealed trout are surviving for years in what was considered a warm water fishery for decades. People come from across the state and surrounding states to fish the Lehigh for trophy trout and numbers of respectable trout. Teddy was a driving force in this unprecedented effort until the time of his death. The business community along the Lehigh River from the Pocono’s to Northampton reaped the benefits of Teddy’s vision. His dream was to make the Lehigh River a trout fishery comparable to our famous rivers out West.

    As the owner of Birch Creek Trout Hatchery and Birch Creek Deer Farm, Teddy was a generous man beyond compare. If you needed money he was there to help. The LRSA received countless donations from Teddy Miller in the way of fingerlings. He worked tirelessly to raise money so the Lehigh could receive substantial stockings every year.

    Deer farming, his latest venture, was as successful as his trout hatchery business. Teddy was raising some of the largest, trophy bucks this state has ever seen. He developed and private labeled his own line of deer food. He was an excellent businessman. He was widely known and respected by the PA Deer Farmers Association.

    Personally, I went ten out-of-state hunting trips with Teddy Miller. We hunted from Maine to Alabama. It was always a blast. Every one of them could be considered a trip of a lifetime. We killed game together. Most often I came home with a bellyache. Teddy was hysterical, telling stories and jokes from the moment we left until the time we pulled into his or my driveway.

    Teddy Miller was a good man, a compassionate man, a loveable man. His friends numbered in the thousands across this Commonwealth. The town of Walnutport is in shock at his passing. So are the many that were a part of his life. I consider myself lucky to have known him and have shared the past fourteen years with him. He was unique, extraordinary and a true friend. His passing is a sad day for the Lehigh River, conservation and all those who knew him.

    May Teddy Miller rest in peace for eternity.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 377



    What’s in a Title?



    In today’s fast-paced society and world of negative campaigns, a label has become a common weapon of spin. He’s controversial, he’s an extremist, he’s anti-hunting are labels thrown around to identify or misidentify those with whom others disagree. A label (one little word) can often sum up the feelings about an individual or group quickly and quite nicely. To complicate matters there is also the issue of titles. He’s a lobbyist, he’s an advisor, he’s a legislative liaison, which further confuses the listener or reader. Unfortunately, the people most confused by all of this spin are our legislators. The label and title game has their heads spinning.

    As an example let’s take Mr. Stephen Smith, PGC Legislative Liaison to the PA legislature. On the surface Legislative Liaison sounds like a spiffy title for someone who is a go-between the Agency and our legislators. The title “liaison” implies a person to call with questions. However, Mr. Smith doesn’t sit at a desk waiting for a legislator to call with a question. Mr. Smith is in the Capital everyday providing information on matters that our legislators didn’t request. Mr. Smith is the fourth PGC employee in my memory who has transformed his job from Legislative Liaison into Legislative Lobbyist. Although in all fairness, the job has been deceivingly labeled for the past twenty years or so. Mr. Smith, like his predecessors does bring the Agency point of view to our legislators. However, within that endeavor Mr. Smith argues against any and all pending legislation that would reform the PGC. Sportsmen pay Mr. Smith with their license revenue and sportsmen requested the pending legislation, but Mr. Smith’s primary responsibility in Harrisburg is to defeat that curative legislation. I am sorry, but his efforts speak louder than his title.

    And then, there is that problem with our legislators. They don’t know the issues. For most legislators our outdoor issues are a low priority. This is especially true in the Senate, or should I say the “House of Lords”. It takes months, sometimes years to get the simplest piece of common sense legislation through our Senate. The system was designed for the Senate to be the more deliberative body, so rash and emotional legislation doesn’t pass. However, when it comes to the PGC they have been kicking around some legislation for decades. I’d say deliberate has been taken to a whole new level in PA.

    Truthfully, the lack of legislation reforming the PGC may not be our Senators’ fault, either. Remember State Rep Bruce Smith? As Chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee he blocked every piece of legislation reforming the PGC for twelve years running. Joe Neville, the Legislative Liaison at that time had a work station in SR Bruce Smith’s office.

    The core problem is that many legislators believe the PGC Legislative Liaison above all other voices. The title implies that he is an expert at providing objective information. He is in the Capital everyday telling the same story. PGC Legislative Liaison’s have historically labeled all those who oppose the PGC as uninformed, a small disgruntled minority and extremists.

    The human, emotional side of this entire story is as equally interesting as the political side. I met Mr. Smith a few weeks ago and told him I planned to write this column. He became quite upset that I might portray him as an anti-hunter. I told him I had no intention of labeling him as such. I told him some things most of us learn with age. I told him there are some things none of us will do for money. I said there are some jobs all of us would turn down no matter how lucrative the pay.

    Mr. Smith, as Legislative Liaison for the PGC is in Harrisburg fighting daily against curative legislation passed by our House of Representatives by margins of 199 to 0. HB 1214 would be a prime example. Our sporting class wants this legislation and our House of Reps responded and passed it. Mr. Smith is lobbying our Senate to kill this legislation.

    One can only surmise Mr. Smith’s conscience is bothering him to worry about being labeled. Obviously, he is well aware of his efforts. To this we must ask what is really in a title? In this case, I’d say everything.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    Business as Usual?

    Jim Slinsky

    Column 374



    Business as Usual?


    Legislative change comes hard in PA. We are not the slowest moving state in the nation. Incredibly, compared to other states we are running in the middle of the pack. Yes, there are states that move even slower and a few that are quicker on the trigger. This is a good thing if we are talking about new gun laws, but not so good when we want a long-standing problem resolved. Right now there are issues pending in the Senate that very well may define the future of hunting in the Pennsylvania.

    First, you must ask yourself if you are satisfied with the performance of the PGC over the last eight years. You must decide if you want their programs to continue or is it time for a change. I can vividly recall the remarks of PGC Regional Supervisor Denny Dusza at the PCN televised Coudersport meeting a few months ago. Mr. Dusza advised the crowd to stop worrying about deer and go out and hunt squirrels. Squirrels? Mr. Carl Roe, Executive Director of the PGC made a similar comment to our Senators just weeks ago. Are they telling us the real future of hunting in PA? I almost fell off my chair, twice.

    The reality is the PGC Board of Commissioners is the oversight committee for the management and philosophy of the Agency. The Agency puts the programs together and the Board is supposed to vote yea or nay. Over the past eight years the areas of responsibility have blurred and it appears the Agency and the Board has been merged. It is further obvious that our PGC Commissioners are often driving the agenda and the Agency is in tow. To say the entire process and relationship of these two entities have drifted miles from the statutory intent is a massive understatement.

    Although, one could say the politics of the last year or so are presently culminating in a crossroad decision for our Senators and the future of hunting in this state. State Rep Dan Surra put forth his HB1214 limiting PGC Commissioner terms to two (2) four-year terms. The bill passed the House 199-0 and sits in limbo within the PA Senate. State Rep Mike Hanna put forth his HB2381restricting PGC employees and former WCO’s from becoming PGC Commissioners. It is predicted this bill will pass the House unanimously, as well. Of course, who could forget the House Resolution calling for a deer management audit that passed by a margin of 201-0? SR Surra and SR Hanna are both Democrats and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention SR Sam Rohrer, SR Gordon Denlinger and SR Dan Moul as Republicans putting forth curative legislation, too. The concerns for our great traditions are indeed bi-partisan.

    The Unified Sportsmen of PA was at the forefront of much of the landmark legislation. I must plug them because they are the only statewide organized group fighting the good fight for the average hunting license buyer in this state. They stand alone against the liberal agenda that has gripped the PGC and our Board of Commissioners for the last eight years.

    At this moment in history, the ball is in the Senate’s lap. Unified has practically begged our Senators to pass HB1214 and eliminate WCO’s and former PGC employees from consideration as Commissioners. Let us not forget our sporting class is the sole financiers of the PGC for the past 100 years and yet our voices are ignored for Commissioner appointments. The embroiling mess we find ourselves in will not be resolved without appointing qualified, objective PGC Commissioners.

    The people who control our destiny as sportsmen and the future of our great traditions are Senator Joseph Scarnati, Senator Charles McIlhinney and your local Senator. I heard there may be an attempt very soon to slip another PGC surrogate onto our PGC Board of Commissioners. Maybe, this time it will be the farming industry that will be appeased, or gas, coal and/or forestry once again.

    It is completely fair and accurate to say the Unified Sportsmen of PA is assertively fighting for the rights of the average license buyer in this state and our House of Representatives is listening. It is unclear at this moment if our Senators are listening. The month of June will be critical. Will our Senators respond to the requests of the people? Or, will our sporting class be ignored and once again, business as usual will prevail?

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 375



    Moonlight Over Harrisburg



    Debates and controversies can become complex in Harrisburg. We all have our sense of fair play, ethics and morals, but these judgment calls can vary greatly from person to person. “Whose ox is getting gored” is a fairly common thought process around town. While someone or group might be benefiting from an arrangement, someone else is probably not. I suspect the Gas Rush of 2008 is destined to bring out the worst and the best in people.

    Specifically, there is an extraordinary situation within the PGC that I don’t remember ever having to consider or write about. Basically, a key employee of the Agency has two jobs, his day job at Elmerton Avenue and a night job as an advisor/consultant to private landowners who want to extract gas from beneath their properties. Moonlighting, I think it’s called. This one is a bit messy because the individual is Mr. William Capouillez, PGC Director of the Bureau of Habitat Management. A past press release told us he is a geologist.

    Apparently, Mr. Capouillez negotiates with gas companies for increased royalties on behalf of his clients, private landowners. He then receives a percentage of the increased royalty he obtained. Sounds like a sweet deal to me, but let us not forget this is America. To my knowledge there is no law preventing PGC employees from having a second job or launching their own business. Or, is this arrangement a conflict of interest? After all, he is negotiating with gas companies by day on behalf of the PGC. Is he using his PGC position to obtain clients for his personal business? I heard he does not mention his PGC position when doing a seminar or approaching potential clients, but word of mouth gets around quickly. This one is complicated so where do we turn for an objective review of this situation?

    The obvious place to turn is the Office of Inspector General (OIG). These types of situations are precisely why the OIG was created. But alas, we can not ask the OIG for a review. The PGC is an independent agency not subject to OIG review. Conversely, when sued the PGC is defended by the Attorney General because they are a state agency. Interesting.

    We can only speculate the PGC can remove this air of impropriety by asking Mr. Capouillez to resign and hiring him back as their consultant. But, has he done anything wrong? Why would he give up his pension and benefits? As a consultant, his retainer would probably be far greater than his current salary. Sounds like a rock and a hard place for the PGC to me.

    Although, there is a bigger question that needs to be answered. Why was Mr. Capouillez promoted to “Director” of the Bureau of Habitat Management? If he was an underling in the Bureau, a specialist in gas and oil extraction, would we be having this debate? As a secondary player in the Bureau would we not applaud the PGC for finding the best man to do the best job possible at this moment in history? Would Mr. Capouillez’s personal sideline business even be an issue?

    Unfortunately, it does appear the name change from Bureau of Land Management to Bureau of Habitat Management was indeed just a name change. It appears it is business as usual at the PGC. The Bureau of Habitat Management is nothing more than the resource extraction bureau within the Agency.

    Shame on me. Here I thought the Bureau of Habitat Management would be directed by a wildlife biologist. Silly me. I assumed a wildlife management agency would promote a wildlife specialist to run the Bureau of Habitat Management and coordinate their efforts with the Bureau of Wildlife Management. Sorry, my national radio show interviews must have me confused. I must be thinking of a different state.

    Once again, the role of our PGC Commissioners is critical to the future of hunting and the management of all wildlife in PA. Without legislation subjecting the PGC to OIG review, our Commissioners must oversee these situations. Obviously, we want the PGC to maximize their return on gas with minimum disruption and full access to our State Game Lands.

    I’d say the moonlight is obscured in Harrisburg right now. On this and a number of other critical issues, it is time to clear the clouds of controversy and allow the light of commitment to our wildlife to shine through.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    The PA Wells Program

    Column 373



    The PA Wells Program


    “Pennsylvania is the new Texas” are the passionate words emanating from the halls of Harrisburg these days. Our legislators have big smiles on their faces. The thought of gas royalties pouring into the state’s coffers has more than a few legislators planning our financial future. Let’s be honest. Our citizens are taxed out.

    However, if you are thinking PA’s financial woes will be resolved for the next fifty years by the Gas Rush of 2008, I have some not-so-good news. It’s called the “Oil and Gas Lease Act of 1955”. It was modified in 1995 with the founding of our DCNR. Per this Act, rent and royalties from gas and oil extraction on state land are earmarked for conservation, dams, flood control, recreation and to acquire more land. Unfortunately, big planners and wishful thinkers are up against it. The Game and Fish Commissions are exempt from the Act.

    Let’s talk about the PGC. I heard they don’t expect more than $20 million in gas royalties a year, approximately the same as their timber revenue. It is too early to determine if that is by design or bad luck. No one knows at this time how much of State Game Lands sit on top of the Marcellus deposit. With luck the PGC will reap enough to solve all of their financial problems without a license increase. With a little more luck maybe we will get all new state-of-the-art shooting ranges and major habitat improvements on our SGL’s. If the revenue potential is too great, a few legislators might advocate eminent domain in some form, claiming the revenue is too great for the PGC to keep. One thing is for certain, no one wants to see the PGC grow their bureaucracy without tangible benefits for our sporting class and State Game Lands. Until realistic revenue numbers are established, a hunting license increase has obviously become a dead issue.

    Over at the DCNR things are a bit more complicated. State Game Lands are for hunting, which I believe the PGC will not totally forget, but State Forest Lands (SFL) are for resource extraction. At a quick glance it appears most of the gas is below SFL’s. Under the current Act, one would imagine all of our dams will be repaired at no cost to our fishermen or the PFBC. If the gas potential is in the billions as some predict, I would suspect we will get all new hatcheries, too. However, do we want DCNR to unleash a land buying frenzy with the remaining revenue in the years to come? With a diminishing base of hunters we are told, is there any point to continuously buying more land by either Agency? Shouldn’t the revenue after dams and hatcheries go to the state coffers for roads, bridges, schools, sewage treatment facilities, property tax relief and on and on. Doesn’t that gas belong to all the people and shouldn’t that revenue be shared by all the people? I seem to remember when oil began flowing from Alaska didn’t all Alaskans get a royalty check? For certain I know our citizens don’t want to see DCNR grow their bureaucracy before our state and citizens benefit. You know, one thousand more DCNR employees with vehicles and credit cards for everyone.

    And then, there is that old matter that must settled. The people of northcentral PA have been squeezed hard for decades. For years the payment in lieu of taxes at $1.20 per acre paid by DCNR and the PGC was a joke. Now that the big ship has arrived in port, shouldn’t those citizens get their cut first? I sense it might be time to settle up.

    Let us not forget there was a time when we were told liming our forests was too expensive and killing the deer was cheaper. If the Gas Rush of 2008 is a windfall as some say, wouldn’t it be appropriate to restore our deer herd and lime our forests? Isn’t that conservation? Is the PA Wilds Program about to fade into history?

    Frankly, I think getting branded the new Texas is actually a good thing. Now if someone can point me toward those massive bucks scoring over 200 inches of horn, I’d be much obliged, partner.

    Doesn’t all of the above mean we are about to enter into PA Wells Program?

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    Alternative Financing or New Bosses?

    Column 371



    Alternative Financing or New Bosses?

    A few days ago there was yet another historic meeting in Harrisburg. SR David Levdansky, Chairman of the House Finance Committee wanted to hear input on his HB1676, which dedicates a portion of our sales tax revenue to the PA Game Commission and PA Fish and Boat Commission. This is the Missouri system of public financing for wildlife agencies.

    The usuals were called to testify. Melody Zullinger from the PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and Ed Wentzler from the United Bowhunters of PA were invited to voice their always-accommodating opinions. PGC Deputy Director Mike Schmit testified on behalf of the PGC. I guess it has become difficult for Executive Director Carl Rowe to once again deliver this speech. You know, we have 467 species to manage, gas was a $1 a gallon, salaries are going up, etc. Show me a state agency that doesn’t cry for more money and I will show you a taxpayer who cries for higher taxes.

    Melody Zullinger really went overboard in her praise for the alternative financing scheme. She submitted letters of support from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Audubon. Apparently, she would like to see our wildlife agencies completely financed by the public. A number of legislators expressed serious concern that this concept will open the door for environmental extremists and anti-hunting groups to demand a seat at the management table. The PGC responded that they are not worried.

    Most of us instinctively know accepting general tax dollars from the public to finance wildlife agencies is a disaster waiting to happen. We already have a situation that the anti-hunting, anti-gun, environmental extremists are too deeply involved in our management policies and they don’t currently contribute. Accepting their money will surely open the proverbial flood gates. There is really very little to talk about. HB1676 is a bad idea whose time has passed. We have been burned enough to know not to trust anyone and their happy talk.

    As a sidebar, I must ask what has happened to SR David Levdansky. He claims to be a hunter and was once a vocal critic of the PGC. In these past few years we have seen him advocate new, repressive gun laws. We have seen him try to send the deer audit in a direction of oblivion. We have watched him work behind the scenes for merger. He has become closer to Audubon than any sportsmen’s group in his district. This one is bewildering.

    Interestingly, the Unified Sportsmen of PA was not asked to testify at this historic meeting. The largest, fastest growing sportsmen’s group in the state was omitted from the invitation list. Imagine that? One can only surmise there was fear that Unified would have ruined the party. Maybe not? Unified might have suggested that we look at West Virginia (not Missouri) and their Bureau of Non-Game Wildlife supported exclusively by the public. This scheme would force the PGC to use hunters’ dollars for hunted species, a novel idea. Maybe, Unified would have suggested we combine Game and Fish law enforcement departments and put them in a separate building with public financing, so we can use sportsmen’s dollars more effectively for sportsmen’s priorities. It would have been an interesting meeting if SR Levdansky had the courage to truly seek solutions and not play politics.

    In reality, the timing could not be worse for HB 1676. The economy is in a downward trend and our citizens are sick of tax increases. I don’t believe the general public gives a hoot about wildlife or fisheries management. Sportsmen have paid that tab for 100 years. The anti-hunting, environmental extremists are trying to convince everyone the system is broken so they can rearrange the chairs and be seated at the head of the table.

    The North American Wildlife Model is the envy of the world. It is the greatest wildlife success story in the history of the planet. Sportsmen paid for the restoration of all wildlife and will continue to do so without a complaint as long as there is game (deer) to hunt.

    On the horizon there is an ironic ending to this story. With maybe hundreds of millions in gas deposits below State Game Lands, soon their will be voices screaming the PGC should be financing the state.

    When that historic Harrisburg meeting is called, I have a hunch Unified will be at the top of the invitation list.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com





    Column 372



    Conspiracy or Coincidence?



    It is only natural as one gets older and contemplates the difficulties of life in their remaining years to fantasize about having lived in a simpler time. The great historical events and extraordinary individuals of the last two hundred years have unquestionably shaped this nation and the people we are. Personally, I have often wished I could have met Teddy Roosevelt, Wyatt Earp or Wild Bill Hickok. I wish I could have witnessed in my day the Gold Rush of California and Alaska.

    Interestingly, a similar piece of history is currently unfolding right before our eyes, the Gas Rush of 2008 in northcentral PA. The trillions of cubic feet of gas found in the Marcellus Shale deposit will change this state forever, physically, biologically and politically. It is an interesting end of a story that may have been unfolding for the last 30-40 years. Have we arrived at the end of a fantastic story that was nurtured and manipulated from its inception or is the Gas Rush of 2008 just something destined to happen in our lifetime?

    We will start with the decades old argument to merge the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission and put these agencies under the control of DCNR. Was the intention of this effort to save money and improve services or was it about shifting ownership of our 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands to a resource extraction agency? You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to ask this legitimate question.

    We will fast forward to 1999 and the new deer management program. Was it really about forest regeneration or was it about getting the hunters out of woods? Was it about forcing hunters to abandon their camps and favorite hunting spots? Was it about eliminating competition for use of the land? Personally, I have always wondered if the deer plan was really about the trees on the land or the gas (liquid gold) beneath the land? The collapse of the deer herd led to collapse of the hunting economy and hundreds of rural businesses that serviced it.

    How about the PA Wilds program? Was it really about creating a tourism industry or about causing conflicts with the remaining landowners? We had a tremendous tourism industry with hunters frequenting the area and spending hundreds of millions. Why would the state destroy the hunting industry to promote a tourism program that was destined to fail, but they now fail to admit it? Was the entire program a depopulation plan to minimize the property owners receiving lease payments and royalties for the gas beneath their holdings?

    By the way, the deer are gone and they are not coming back unless we put them back. With the highest population of coyotes east of the Mississippi and continuous talk of wolves and mountain lions does some entity have different plans for the future of northcentral PA? Let us not forget regeneration did not occur and the agencies are now liming to jump-start regeneration. Did they know this was going occur from the beginning, but the deer had to die anyway?

    I am going off the deep end you say? How about windmills on our ridges, gas wells in our valleys, posted ground wherever either exists and you are relegated to hunt the sidehills if you can grow one leg longer than the other where there are no deer anyway? Interesting.

    I can not tell you for certain if the above story was truly an intricate plan that was executed over the last ten years or not. With the PGC seeking public funding through a percentage of our sale tax dollars while at the exact moment sinking gas wells on our State Game Lands, I must be having a bad dream.

    The reality is all of the above is true and unfolded right before our eyes. The reason our PGC Commissioners never wanted to recognize our horrendously acidic soils is because the plan was much bigger than regeneration. Deer were just the first to go for all the remaining pieces to come together.

    Now I will be the first to admit that hindsight is always 20-20 and I may have just done a clever job of linking all of the previous events into a grand conspiracy theory. You might be right. However, there could be only one other explanation.

    The events that led us to the current conditions of the great Gas Rush of 2008 were totally unrelated. Therefore, all of the above was mere coincidence.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    Surrogate Gets A New Job

    Column 370

    Surrogate Gets A New Job
    From what I can see, our state legislators are hard working, busy people. When they are in Harrisburg their days are hectic and complex. I have yet to see a legislator reading the paper. Meetings in their offices are non-stop. When sessions begin they rush-out onto the floor. After session, there maybe more meetings in their office, a Committee meeting or perhaps a meeting in their district. Jump in the car and drive a few hours and don’t be late. With the exception of those who live around Harrisburg, our legislators stay in hotels, motels or rented houses away from their families for three days a week while session is on. I don’t know how hard they work back in their districts, but they do a white collar job that is not conducted on a golf course. State Reps earn about $75,000 a year and Senators, $90,000. There are other perks and benefits, but this is generally what we pay.

    Interestingly, Mr. Tim Schaffer, Executive Director of the Audubon Society just got a new job. He is now Director of Policy, Planning and Communication at the PA Fish and Boat Commission. This is a newly created position. His salary is $90,000 a year. In essence, he is earning more than a State Rep and about the same as a State Senator. (You should remember this the next time the PFBC cries the money blues. Did I hear someone say government at its’ finest?)

    Now I learned a long time ago not to envy anyone making more money than me and not to feel sorry for anyone making less. That is not my point. My point is Mr. Schaffer has functioned as a lobbyist for Audubon for years and has steadfastly maintained the deer of PA must die to save our forests. I mean he was constantly in Harrisburg making the rounds sitting with our legislators singing the kill the deer song. I guess Mr. Schaffer’s ship finally came in.

    In fairness to Mr. Schaffer, he is not the first person from Audubon to land a state job. His predecessor, Cindy Adams Dunn went from Executive Director to Director of Biodiversity Partnerships at DCNR. I didn’t bother to check her salary. She has been very quiet, but she was quite active in the deer war during her stay at Audubon. Actually, you can say Ms. Dunn was a major player in launching the deer eradication program. I attended her meeting I believe in 1998 called “The Effects of Whitetail Deer on PA’s Forest Biodiversity” or something close to that. I didn’t look it up, but you get the point. Ms. Dunn was also a major player in the mysterious million dollars donated to Penn State to launch Dr. Alt’s deer studies. The studies that concluded the deer must die.

    I hope you are getting the picture. Go to Harrisburg and support the kill the deer agenda and you will be hired into a high paying state job. These few examples are only the high-profile examples we know of. It should not be a mystery why our agencies have drifted so far to the left it is hard to recognize who they are and who they work for.

    The most insulting part of this entire story is neither Tim Schaffer nor Cindy Adams Dunn were correct in their assessment of the impact of deer. The latest regeneration studies reveal regeneration has hardly improved after killing millions of deer. Furthermore, DCNR is now liming their timber cuts and erecting fences. We promoted and handsomely rewarded these people for spreading an agenda.

    In reality, the deer war is much bigger than Carl Rowe and PGC. The Governor’s office must approve these promotions and newly created positions. DCNR’s fingerprints are constantly appearing at the scene. We have the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Humane Society, the National Wildlife Federation and others constantly in Harrisburg opposing the best interests of our sporting class. These groups are well-financed working continuously to destroy our traditions.

    By comparison our sporting class has the part-time, 84-year old Dr. Charles Bolgiano from the Unified Sportsmen of PA standing in their way. I’d say it is time to level the playing field. In the interim we can only wait and see which surrogate gets a new, executive level job… with your money.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com



    Column 369



    Independent Deer Audit Coming to PA



    At some point in our lives we have all come across a situation that conclusively confirms that old cliché` “truth can be stranger than fiction”. Try this one on for size; after 102 years an independent deer audit is coming to PA. House Resolution 642 authorizing the audit passed on April 7, 2008 by a vote of 201 to 0.

    This was not an easy undertaking. It took fourteen months to put this together. The PGC claimed over the months that they welcomed an audit. “Bring it on” were the words we heard from a few Commissioners and a few Agency employees. The core problem was the Agency’s concept of an audit and our sportsmen’s concept of an audit were miles apart. The Agency was looking for an endorsement of their ongoing deer reduction plan. Our sporting class is looking for real population numbers by WMU and statewide totals. Our representatives saw the potential for a whitewash. The audit is quite comprehensive. A quick search on the Internet should reveal this document for your review.

    Some of the key elements of the audit prove that our legislators are listening even if our PGC Commissioners are not. A twelve-year look-back at our deer populations and deer harvests are incorporated. This is critical because our deer population took a mysterious leap to 1.6 million when Dr. Gary Alt became involved. If done objectively many will be in shock at how few deer are left in this state. Converting the PGC’s “qualitative” deer management into hard, believable, quantitative numbers is a major objective of this audit. We must manage by numbers, just as every state in the nation manages their deer herd.

    Forest regeneration problems and the effects of acid rain are weaved into this resolution. This is also a major victory because after killing millions of deer, forest regeneration did not occur as promised. The understory did not explode to provide food for those monster bucks. DCNR and the PGC are beginning to quietly lime their timber cuts. Dr. William Sharpe of Penn State advised Dr Alt eight years ago that deer reduction would not cure our regeneration problems.

    Analysis of our deer modeling techniques, a review of our reproduction data as an indicator of herd health and the questionable size of our WMU’s are all in this document. Our legislators on the House Game and Fisheries Committee and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee members have done an outstanding job. Granted, we must find qualified, objective people from across the nation to execute the audit, but the framework is excellent.

    Once again, this landmark resolution would not have occurred if it wasn’t for the hard work and tenacity of Dr. Charles Bolgiano and the Unified Sportsmen of PA. This 84-year old crusader can outwork many half his age. Charlie deserves an award for his tireless efforts.

    It is easy to predict where we are headed. I am seeing a scenario that neither the PGC and/or DCNR will appreciate. In early 2007 State Rep Tim Mahoney proposed legislation that required the PGC to maintain a minimum of ten deer per square forested mile on all state land. Think about that, one deer for every sixty-four acres of forestland. The point being if you can’t get regeneration with one deer for every sixty-four acres, deer are not your problem. The soil is your problem. If regeneration does not occur at ten deer per square mile, the agencies should be forced to stop killing deer and remediate the soil.

    Removing the PGC’s and DCNR’s absolute discretion to take us to zero deer is the next logical piece of legislation. Taking us to zero deer is not the moral high ground in the name of saving our forests. It is the coward’s way out of refusing to recognize the effects of burning coal and its impact on our environment. Liming our timber cuts to accelerate regeneration and create a diverse forest habitat for all wildlife and all the people is the true moral high ground. Furthermore, fencing is more costly than liming and requires expensive maintenance to be effective.

    The audit if executed objectively will prove this all to be true. It may even force some early retirements. It may even usher in some new management at both agencies.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com



    Column 368



    The Perfect Stream



    It was one of those days last spring that was absolutely perfect for fishing. I decided to give my good buddy and world class fly fisherman Brian Tartar from Silver Springs Outfitters a call and ask the big question. “Hey Brian, where can I go and catch 18” brown trout in numbers?” He responded without hesitation. “If I knew that Jim, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you”. Of course, we laughed and laughed. A year later we are still talking about that question.

    If you are anything like me and exist with that hope in your heart that this is your year for numbers of 18” and bigger trout, where you fish is more important than how you fish. Although, I will pitch you once again that the fly rod is the only civilized way to catch trout. No minnow buckets, no dirt or worm guts all over your hands, just a vest with pockets full of flies, waders and a rod and reel.

    Fishing for big trout is not unlike fishing for big fish of any other species; it’s all about structure. Big fish like to hide. They fear predators. How did they get so big? Worrying about number one is the answer. If your favorite stream doesn’t have it’s share of hideouts, it probably doesn’t hold big fish. You may catch a bunch of stockers, but you need those deep holes and undercut banks to hold big fish. If you have those spots on your perfect stream, but you are not getting hits, fishing at night might be the answer. I am going to prove that this year. I know a few spots on my nearly perfect stream that simply must be holding nocturnal browns.

    Being able to move around on a stream is another ingredient toward the status of the perfect stream. While easy wading helps increase the pressure, a treacherous bottom with slippery rocks can put you in a parallel position with a rock breaking your ribs and puncturing your liver. This did happen to a friend of mine and he almost died. In those treacherous situations floating the stream might be the best alternative. At least you will live to fish another day.

    I want to tell you about two streams that just might be perfect candidates for the perfect stream, at least east of the Mississippi. The first that comes to mind is the Au Sable in northern Michigan. This fabled water starts out just north of the town of Grayling, the birthplace of Trout Unlimited. From Grayling it flows for 60 miles without a dam or manmade obstruction. The cutting of trees along the shoreline to create structure is permitted by the state. Au Sable means river of sand and this is a stream you can walk down the middle and cast to both shores and fish the structure. The Au Sable’s brown trout are legendary although mostly nocturnal. It is rated one of the best and certainly most famous trout streams in the nation. It’s a one day drive. There are all-tackle and fly fishing only areas. This is a stream I will fish, hopefully before I die.

    The second candidate for the perfect stream is not a stream, but a tailwater river. It’s the Cumberland River below Cumberland Lake in Kentucky. It is wide and shallow when they are not generating electricity, but it fishes like a stream. Stocked with millions of fingerlings each year it is producing trophy trout on a consistent basis. Five and ten pound trout are common with 30-40 pound stripers coming up from the Tennessee River. You can wade it or float it and it is chock full of fish food. Any tackle goes and I am told the spinner and stickbait boys do better than the fly fishermen. It is presently rated “the” best trout water east of the Mississippi. It is a one day drive from eastern PA, eights hours from Pittsburgh.

    Of course, you realize there is no perfect trout stream. Or, maybe they are all near perfect. Maybe, it is a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” situation. I am not certain. What I do believe is you should not make any excuses and get out and fish this year. Take a kid fishing.

    You may have the perfect day on that not so perfect stream.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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    A Statistical Powerhouse?

    Column 359



    A Statistical Powerhouse?


    On December 27, 2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a column about our elk program and the PA Wilds that simply must be dissected and discussed. I’ve seen “pie in the sky” hyped-up columns about government programs before, but this one takes the cake. Frankly, it reads like a DCNR press release. Such glowing accolades and impressive numbers I have not seen located in one column about one program in a long, long time.

    However, if you read slowly and think about the stated numbers your eyes instinctively begin to squint. As you traverse the column it becomes apparent that this is PA Wilds advertisement disguised as a news article. The numbers are literally provocative and one can not stop from thinking “I need to see some proof”.

    The first number that jumps out at you is the $75 million figure that represents our citizen’s investment in this program to get it off the ground. That one is a believable number and it actually might be low. It wasn’t a week or so ago that newspapers were printing stories across the state about the battle in Harrisburg to further fund our libraries. At issue was less than $100,000.

    The next number that floored me was the projection of 4 million yearly visitors to this twelve county area we call the PA Wilds. This must have been a typo because that would be almost three times the population of Philadelphia. It would more than double the amount of people who visit Gettysburg National Park every year. It would exceed the record of 3.1 million visitors in one year to Yellowstone National Park by almost one million.

    The next incredulous number I noticed was the economic impact of $8.5 million in the last three years in the town of Ridgway, alone. I have been to Ridgway a number of times and there must be an underground city because I can’t quite put my finger on that $8.5 million dollars above ground.

    I believe you are getting my point. This PA Wilds program is a statistic powerhouse in someone’s imagination, but not in the real world. I still have the Penn State study of a few years ago pinning tourism impact at $1.2 million generated by fifty to sixty thousand visitors per year. That may be up slightly, but a $75 million dollar investment of our citizens’ hard-earned money? This is a travesty.

    After eight years or so, isn’t it time for DCNR to produce some hard evidence of this fantastic program that can just bury visitor records at the number one national park in America, Yellowstone. Isn’t it time to ask for the names and phone numbers of every start-up business that DCNR attributes to this “statistical powerhouse” they call the PA Wilds? Shouldn’t DCNR also produce a list of every business that has failed in the area, since there is no longer a deer herd in northcentral? Shouldn’t we demand two lists, start-ups and close-downs, to compare what is really happening in the northcentral? I’m hearing Renovo is quickly becoming a ghost town, Emporium has fifteen vacant store fronts and Coudersport lost three more businesses last month. Does this sound like a statistical powerhouse to you?

    To add insult to injury apparently DCNR intends to proceed with their $10 million “interpretive center” for the Wilds area. One can only imagine the multiple 65” widescreen TV’s bolted to the walls telling us the great success story of introducing Yellowstone elk in PA to replace the extirpated native elk. Amazing how Yellowstone keeps repeating itself in this column.

    Per my estimates in our golden egg era 250,000 hunters traveled to northcentral PA to hunt deer every year. I estimate they spent anywhere from $250 to $500 each and stayed for a week or more. The economic impact on these twelve rural counties was easily and realistically $100 million per year. That is all gone due to the inclusion of an anti-hunting agenda built into the PA Wilds program.

    Here is a novel idea. Now that DCNR is liming their forest cuts, it is obvious deer were not the cause of our regeneration problems. It is further apparent the deer slaughter was unjustified, anti-hunting driven and an agenda to destroy the PGC. How about we don’t build that interpretive center, but instead we demand DCNR to use the $10 million to put the deer back.

    How about we save our proven $5 billion dollar hunting industry and the economic future of the communities and citizens of northcentral PA?

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at www.outdoortalknetwork.com

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