Pennsylvania Game Commission Approves Land Purchase

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The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved four options that will increase the State Game Lands system by about 87 acres.

In Haycock Township, Bucks County, the Board approved the purchase of property adjoining SGL 157. The parcel - 50 acres of mostly forested land with a three-acre wetlands - is being purchased through the Natural Lands Trust, of Media, and the Bucks County Open Space Program, through funding by a Bucks County bonding initiative, and provides exceptional white-tailed deer habitat. An unnamed tributary of Haycock Creek runs through the parcel. The purchase price is $82,000, with no new reservations. It will be paid using escrowed funds provided by Ladner Inc., of Hummelstown, for a mining lease on SGL 264 in Dauphin County.

In Shade Township, Somerset County, the Board approved the donation of 30 acres near SGL 93 from Waste Management Inc. of Latrobe. The donation, made possible through the Wildlife For Everyone Foundation, State College, will provide additional protection from development of the Flight 93 flight path. The wetland property, developed from mitigation for wetlands impacted by a nearby landfill, provides waterfowl habitat.

In Montgomery Township, Indiana County, the Board approved a land exchange involving two lots of SGL 262 totaling 1.67 acres that will allow Arcadia Industrial Corp, of Indiana, to expand its current manufacturing facilities. Safety zone conflicts with the plant already impede hunter use of the land being offered. In exchange for the lots, the Game Commission will receive 6.68 acres in Grant Township adjoining SGL 262. The parcel is forested riparian habitat and will provide additional road frontage/access along Pine Vale Road. The acquisition of this land will further protect a portion of Little Mahoning Creek, a trout stream.

In St. Clair Township, Westmoreland County, the Board approved a land exchange involving a 150-foot by 337-foot easement (1.16 acres) on SGL 42 that will be used to construct an emergency spillway on the existing High Ridge Water Authority reservoir adjacent to the game lands. In exchange, the Authority will convey a 2.93-acre parcel and an easement that will provide improved access to a large portion of SGL 42. Sugar Run passes through the tract being acquired by the agency.

"The Game Commission's ability to purchase and preserve lands for wildlife and for public hunting and trapping has always been limited by rising property values and the availability of funds," said Carl G. Roe, agency executive director. "The agency's last license fee increase was in 1999, and since that time, we have made considerable cuts in the agency's budget to keep pace with inflation and to offset reduced license sales. Consequently, for the foreseeable future, it seems likely that most of this agency's land acquisitions will be tempered by the availability of escrowed funds, assistance from conservation partners and property donations. We'd like to do more, but it's a financial impossibility."

In addition to relying on the agency's land purchase escrow funds, Roe noted that the agency has maximized land acquisition efforts by working closely with conservation partners, such as land conservancies.

"Conservation-minded individuals and organizations are helping the Game Commission leave a legacy for all Pennsylvanians to admire," Roe said.

For more information on how to contribute either land or money, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Wildlife Donations" on the homepage.

The Game Commission has been purchasing State Game Lands since 1920. The State Game Lands system currently contains more than 1.4 million acres. Under state law, the Game Commission is authorized to purchase property for no more than $400 per acre from the Game Fund, with certain exceptions regarding interior holdings, indentures and for administrative purposes. Any purchase that equals or exceeds $300,000 must be approved by the General Assembly and Governor through the capital budget appropriation process.

"State Game Lands represent a tangible asset that hunters and trappers of this state can literally point to as a product of their license fees," Roe said. "In addition to the bountiful wildlife in our state, this is one more reason to view the price of Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker licenses as a bargain."

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.