By Don Rank, Chapter Secretary and Policy Chair
While many activities have been derailed or delayed over the past year, the Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has continued the work of monitoring and advancing policies that provide access and opportunity for our members. We have identified issues and pieces of legislation that have an impact on our ability to not only partake in our traditions but also grow them and expand our community.
Since the new legislative session began in January our board members have met with many legislators in the House and Senate to discuss those issues important to BHA and to also offer our chapter as a resource to these legislators when issues that affect hunting, fishing or public lands arise.
We have also met with the directors of the Fish and Boat Commission, the Pennsylvania Game Commission as well as the Secretary of the DCNR to discuss our goals and mission. In areas where we have common goals our combined efforts can further our causes greatly.
Our board has identified policy goals and current pieces of legislation that embody our organization's goals. Some are large initiatives and some concern modifying existing regulations. But each is in the spirit of protecting our public lands and waters and providing access for hunting and fishing. We feel that access is not just measured as a piece of land. It is also measured in reducing unnecessary infringements that can exist due to outdated or unnecessary regulations.
PA BHA continues to support the expansion of Sunday hunting with the ultimate goal of giving the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) the authority to regulate hunting seasons for all seven days of the week.
The Chapter submitted comments in support of PGC’s plan to expand the species open to hunting allowed on the three Sundays open to hunting. This measure was passed in the latest PGC Commissioners meeting.
Further legislative remedy is necessary to expand beyond those three Sundays. At this time a bill is not in the legislature. However, Senator Dan Laughlin has submitted a co-sponsor memorandum with the intent of introducing a bill in the future. Read that here.
We will update our members as this moves forward.
Senate Bill 318 would allow falconry on Sundays, which could be a vehicle to the expansion of hunting on Sundays.
Antlerless License System:
House Bill 207 and Senate Bill 431 would bring all hunting license functions under control of the PA Game Commission
The current system of pink envelopes is not only antiquated but also can be confusing to new hunters navigating the sport. This system also diverts a portion of the hunter dollars away from the PGC as the county treasurers receive one dollar for every license sold. That’s roughly 15% of a resident antlerless license. The Chapter is supporting the transfer of this process to the PGC. With the new HuntFishPA store up and running, now is the time to make this change.
The Chapter has submitted a letter of support for HB 207. Click here to read the letter.
Therapeutic Fishing License Exemption
House Bill 1108 and Senate Bill 241 would exempt the fishing license requirements in Pennsylvania for veterans and other individuals taking steps towards physical or mental recovery as part of therapeutic recreation events or programs such as Project Healing Waters. The Chapter has submitted a letters of support for both bills. Click here to read the letter for HB 1108 and and here for Senate Bill 241 (combined with SB 403).
Higher Ed Student Reduced Fishing and Hunting License Fees
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has implemented a change to allow full-time, in-state higher education students who are non-residents to purchase a fishing license at the PA resident rate. This applies to colleges, universities, trade schools, etc. The Chapter has been a supporter of this change and would also support a similar effort for hunting licenses.
PA Game Commission Fee Setting
Like all other state agencies, the PA Game Commission should have the ability to set any and all fees associated with hunting, not the legislature. Last session the PA Fish & Boat Commission gained this ability. It’s time for PGC to get the same. There is not currently a bill in the legislature
Dollar Limit for Purchase of PA State Game Lands.
Removal of the current $400/acre limit for the purchase of State Game Lands is supported by BHA. The cap is an impediment to expanding our public lands, especially in the more heavily populated areas of the state with limited access. During the last session, the limit was removed for purchases within Allegheny County. A companion bill that would have removed the cap state-wide did not receive a vote. There is not currently a bill in the legislature.
Senate Bill 403 and House Bill 1153
These bills would align the schedule for boat registration to match up with the calendar year as it is with fishing licenses.
House Bill 714 This bill would expand the requirements for riparian buffers when building near waterways.
As we move forward with this session, the Pennsylvania Chapter will continue to monitor legislative issues that affect our core goals and values and keep our members apprised of any new developments. If any member has an issue that they feel should be addressed by the Chapter, please feel free to bring it to our attention. Email us at [email protected]