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  1. #21
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    Default 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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  2. #20
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    Default 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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  3. #19
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    Default

    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
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    > 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
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    > --
    > Bruno Associates
    > P.O. Box 14825
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    > rfbsr1@gmail.com
    > www.brunosystems.com
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  4. #18
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    Default 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
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  5. #17
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    Default 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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  6. #16
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    Default 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
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella
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    http://jerrylabella.com

  7. #15
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    Angry 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
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella
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    http://jerrylabella.com

  8. #14
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    Default 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
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella
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    http://jerrylabella.com

  9. #13
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    Default

    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
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella
    http://www.jerrylabella.com/forums
    http://jerrylabella.com

  10. #12
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    Default 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
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella
    http://www.jerrylabella.com/forums
    http://jerrylabella.com

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