Pennsylvania hunters should take note of two chances to help shape future hunting opportunities, as Sunday hunting and a new public hunting access program are both being discussed in the Keystone State.
In both instances, hunters can take part in the process.
The first opportunity to get involved will be this Thursday, June 9, when the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee will hold a public hearing on Sunday hunting. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Seven Springs Mountain Resort (777 Waterwheel Drive, Seven Springs, PA 15622).
The Sunday Hunting Coalition, which is a multi-organizational effort to end Sunday hunting bans and restrictions in the 11 states in which they exist, is urging all sportsmen to attend the hearing and show their support for the removal of this antiquated blue law. The Sunday Hunting Coalition is comprised of the NRA and a dozen other pro-hunting groups.
Research shows that expanding Sunday hunting could have a tremendous economic impact on Pennsylvania to the tune of more than $764 million. Perhaps more important, repealing the ban on Sunday hunting would obviously give people more time to hunt. It would enhance the state’s recruitment and retention efforts, as kids who can’t hunt on Saturday because of school functions, sports or jobs would have at least one weekend day to get out. Adults who work all week would benefit, too, and parents would get an additional opportunity to hunt with their kids.
The most common reason that hunters stop hunting is lack of opportunity. Hunting opportunities are largely decided by two factors: accessible land and available time. Considering that most hunters work Monday through Friday, a ban on Sunday hunting cuts their available hunting time in half. Hunters are urged to attend Thursday’s public hearing to voice their support for ending the Sunday hunting ban.
In order to combat the other factor that inhibits hunting opportunity—accessible land—Pennsylvania hunters also have the chance to comment on the Game Commission’s expanded Hunter Access Program.
With recent approval from the federal government, the Game Commission has released for public comment its final Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) Programmatic Environmental Assessment document. This is the final step toward implementing an enhanced Hunter Access Program with the goals of improving wildlife habitat on private land and increasing the number of acres of private land open to public hunting and trapping over the next three years.
Hunters have until July 3, 2011, to comment on the program. To view the final document, visit http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=831108&mode=2. Comments can be submitted for the next 30 days via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Part of the Game Commission’s mission is to protect, conserve and enhance wildlife habitats for current and future generations,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “This additional funding—made possible through the 2008 federal Farm Bill and distributed by the Farm Service Agency—will assist in our mission as we seek to enhance our Hunter Access Program. This partnership will open more private land to hunters and trappers, as well as assist private landowners in completing wildlife habitat improvements on their lands.”
The Game Commission requested $6 million in federal funds to enhance its Hunter Access Program and expects to receive a grant between $3 million and $6 million.
The Game Commission operates a hunter access program that began back in 1936. Under the expanded program, private landowners enrolled in the Game Commission’s existing Hunter Access Program would be eligible for a variety of habitat enhancements and conservation incentives. One element includes improving nesting habitat for ring-necked pheasants and other grassland nesting birds in new Wild Pheasant Restoration Areas, an agency priority for grassland habitat. The Game Commission also has included the return of a complimentary subscription to Pennsylvania Game News. Free subscriptions were discontinued in 2005 as part of the agency’s cost-cutting initiatives.
“When we are able to begin implementing this grant, we will be able to expand our existing successful hunter access program and provide the public with new opportunities for hunting and trapping,” Roe said.
The funding is authorized under the NRA-backed 2008 Farm Bill. Approximately $11.75 million of VPA-HIP funds were awarded to 17 states in 2010. Twenty-six states have public access programs for hunting, fishing and related activities. These programs provide rental payments and other incentives, such as technical or conservation services to landowners who, in return, allow public hunting, fishing or other compatible recreational activities on their land.
For more information on VPA-HIP, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/vpa.