By Don Rank, Chapter Secretary and Policy Chair
The Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers continues to monitor and advance policies that provide access and opportunity for our members. We identify and track issues and legislation that may impact our ability to not only partake in our hunting and angling traditions, but also grow them and expand our community.
In 2021, chapter leaders met with many legislators and staff in the House and Senate to discuss those issues important to BHA and to also offer our chapter as a resource when issues that affect hunting, fishing or public lands arise. Those visits to the state capitol (some through Zoom but mostly in-person) have made an impact. The PA Chapter is now frequently called on for input on policies and legislation by agency staff and legislators. This is a result of our vastly increased presence in Harrisburg and willingness to serve as a resource for decision makers.
We also regularly attend the PA Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission regular public meetings
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 acres of land. It is also measured in reducing unnecessary infringements and frictions to hunting, fishing and public land use that can exist due to outdated or unnecessary regulations.
Issues and Bills
Senate Bill 607 would remove the prohibition on Sunday hunting and place the responsibility under the Pennsylvania Game Commission who now regulate all other seasons and bag limit matters.
The Chapter submitted a formal letter to legislative leaders in full support of the bill. SB 607 passed out of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee and with 10 months left on the legislative session calendar, has received the first of the three-needed floor votes. As previously noted in the 2021 Spring Policy Update, the Pennsylvania Game Commission openly supports this concept.
Senate Bill 318 would allow falconry on Sundays and has passed the Senate. The bill is on the House calendar as of spring of 2022.
Antlerless License System
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 formal letters of support for both bills. Click here to read the letters.
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). As of this spring our support has led to HB 1108 passing the House. The bill is now in the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee for consideration.
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.
These bills would align the schedule for boat registration to match up with the calendar year as it is with fishing licenses. SB 403 has passed the Senate and is poised to pass the House this spring. The Chapter has formally submitted a letter of support for SB 403.
House Bill 714 This bill would expand the requirements for riparian buffers when building near waterways.
Senate Bill 337 would increase the penalty (fine) for killing a golden or bald eagle. The bill passed the Senate and is in the House Game & Fisheries Committee this spring.
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 pe[email protected]g