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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission
Game Commission considers removing bird from threatened species list.
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners is considering a proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state's list of threatened species, and there's an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the matter.
The board on Tuesday voted to open a period of public review for a proposal to upgrade the bald eagle's status from "threatened" to "protected" in Pennsylvania.
The board still would need to vote once more before a change in status would occur, and the commissioners in making their decision will be taking public comments into consideration.
Tuesday's vote puts the proposal on a timeline to be approved as early as January.
The proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state's threatened species list has its roots in a successful restoration program launched by the Game Commission 30 years ago. In 1983, when the first 12 eaglets were plucked from wild nests in Canada to be raised and released here, Pennsylvania was host to only three bald eagle nests -- all of them in Crawford County in the northwestern corner of the state.
Three decades later, there are more than 271 nests statewide. And it's clear the bald eagle no longer fits the description of a "threatened species" -- one that is in danger of becoming endangered throughout its range in Pennsylvania, said Patti Barber, an endangered bird biologist for the Game Commission.
"These birds are doing remarkably well and there certainly is room for their population in Pennsylvania to grow," Barber said.
Criteria for removing the bald eagle from the state's threatened species list are laid out in the Game Commission's bald eagle management plan. The plan calls for delisting eagles as threatened if all of four criteria are met for five consecutive years. There must be at least 150 active nests statewide; successful pairs in at least 40 counties; at least a 60 percent success rate of known nests; and productivity of at least 1.2 eaglets fledged per successful nest.
Three of those criteria already have been met for a five-year span, and eagles in 2013 will exceed for a fifth-straight year the requirement of nesting successfully in at least 40 counties.
Barber said removing bald eagles from the state threatened species list would neither hinder eagle populations in Pennsylvania nor knock off course the species' comeback here.
If the bald eagle is delisted, the bird will continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (the Eagle Act), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Under the Eagle Act, those who harm or disturb eagles are subject to a civil penalty of up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine for their first offense, and criminal convictions can result in fines as high as $250,000.
Additionally, state penalties for disturbing protected wildlife include fines of up to $1,500 and bolster protection for Pennsylvania eagles.
Those wishing to submit comments on the proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state's threatened species list may send them by email to BaldEagleComments@pa.gov. Those who are without email may mail their written comments to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, ATTN: Bald Eagle Comments, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
LANDOWNERS FACE EARLIER DMAP DEADLINE
Change aims to make all DMAP permits available when new hunting licenses go on sale.
The Pennsylvanians who line up to purchase new hunting licenses as soon as they go on sale often are driven by a desire to obtain special property-specific permits to hunt and harvest antlerless deer.
The only problem is that those permits, issued as part of the Deer Management Assistance Program, or DMAP, in some cases aren't available when license sales begin.
It's a scenario the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners is looking to change.
The board on Tuesday voted to bump up the application deadline for landowners interested in taking part in the DMAP program. By requiring landowner applications to be submitted by May 1 – a month earlier than the current deadline – the commissioners hope all permits for all DMAP properties will be available when licenses go on sale.
The Game Commission also would speed up its distribution of application forms to landowners, making the forms available at each of the agency's regional offices by Feb. 15 of each year.
"This change will benefit hunters, but there may be some confusion for landowners," said Chris Rosenberry, who heads up the Game Commission's Deer and Elk Section. "In an effort to reduce potential problems, we will be sending letters and applications to landowners who participated in DMAP to assist them in making this transition."
DMAP provides an additional means for qualifying landowners to manage deer to meet their specific land-use goals. DMAP permits can be used only to harvest antlerless deer on the properties for which the permits are issued.
The DMAP permits hunters obtain are separate from the antlerless licenses sent out by county treasurers, and DMAP permits are not counted as part of the three-license limit that exists for antlerless licenses in most parts of the state.
Hunters can get up to two DMAP permits per property.
DMAP permits can be purchased through the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System (PALS), but because some properties make only a handful of permits available, securing a permit can be a challenge. That's why many of the hunters who seek DMAP permits each year buy their hunting licenses on the first day of sales annually – the second Monday of June.
Based on the application schedule that had been used, however, permits for many DMAP properties weren't available to purchase until late June, or even early July.
And if permits for a specific property weren't available right away, interested hunters had few options but to check back at a later time.
"This change is one of convenience for hunters," Rosenberry said. "Now hunters will be able to purchase all of their hunting licenses and DMAP permits at one time."
STATE GAME LANDS 87 EXPANDING AGAIN
Acquisitions to add nearly 2,100 acres to Clearfield County hunting grounds.
Nearly 2,100 acres in Clearfield County are open to public hunting following a vote Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.
The board unanimously approved five land-acquisition contracts related to State Game Lands 87 that, in total, will add more than 2,088 acres to the game lands.
Additionally, one of the contracts acquires 305 acres in Jefferson County, adjacent to State Game Lands 54.
The additions to State Game Lands 87 are the latest in a series that in recent years has expanded what had been a 1,100-acre tract to more than 15,000 acres, said William Capouillez, director of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management.
The contracts that will add to State Game Lands 87 include:
In addition to the purchases related to State Game Lands 87 and 54, five other acquisition contracts were approved by the commissioners on Tuesday. They are:
ENERGY LEASES GENERATE $9M IN REVENUE
Deals to yield royalties for years to come.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners Tuesday approved a number of leases with energy companies that will result in more than $9 million in initial revenue, and a yet unknown amount of royalties.
Most of the lease agreements result from requests by companies that have strong leaseholds in the surrounding areas, and already are in possession of the energy rights on Game Commission properties. The agreements ensure the fuels are extracted with little to no surface impacts on game lands. The agreements are:
GAME COMMISSION TO TAKE DEEPER LOOK AT BAT DECLINES
Board says it wants to do what it can toward finding a solution.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners said Tuesday it will be looking closely at what the Game Commission might do to help bat populations, which have been in decline due to White-Nose Syndrome (WNS).
White-Nose Syndrome is caused by a fungus and affects hibernating bats. The fungus, which is white in color, accumulates on the bats' noses and wings, and causes the bats to arouse often during hibernation, leading them to burn up crucial energy reserves. Most of the bats afflicted with white-nose syndrome end up dying, and the decline among bat populations has been sharp.
The commissioners said any actions they might take to help bats need to be taken soon, or the impact of WNS on bats might be too severe.
"I don't want to sit here in two or three years and say it's too bad we didn't do anything," Commissioner David Putnam said.
The board said it would be discussing the matter further at its December working group meeting.
QUAIL MANAGEMENT GIVEN BOOST
Commissioners vote to route $250,000 from lease agreement to efforts outlined by plan.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners hope to jumpstart the state's quail management efforts, and on Tuesday took action toward that end.
The board formed a committee to oversee implementation of the Game Commission's quail-management plan, which includes an initial survey to identify quail habitat and determine how many wild quail live in Pennsylvania.
Additionally, the board amended a nearly $3.9 million lease agreement for oil and gas rights to route $250,000 to wildlife management resources, specifically for the management of the northern bobwhite quail.
Commissioner Jay Delaney made the motion to amend the lease, and it was seconded by Commissioner Brian Hoover and approved by a 5-2 vote. Commissioners Ralph Martone and Charles Fox voted against the measure, and Commissioner Ronald Weaner was absent.
Delaney said the Game Commission should place priority on efforts to manage bobwhite quail, since most reports indicate the species is in decline, and perhaps could be considered endangered.
The commissioners said the additional funding would help in providing resources for quail management.
REVIEW PERIOD TO BEGIN FOR BOBCAT, RIVER OTTER PLANS
The plans will be available online within a week.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday voted to release to the public newly-drafted management plans for bobcats and river otters in Pennsylvania.
The commissioners were presented the plans at Monday's meeting.
The plans will be available on the Game Commission's website, www.pgc.state.pa.us within the next week, and there will be a 60-day period for the public to review the plans and submit comments to the Game Commission.
The Board of Game Commissioners will take all comments into consideration when casting future votes on the plans.
The Game Commission will issue a news release when the plans are available online.
CAMPFIRES ON GAME LANDS LIMITED
Change would require most to possess a valid hunting, furtaking or fishing license.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission doesn't have a problem with many of the small, open campfires set and maintained on state game lands.
Historically, hunters, trappers, anglers and Appalachian Trail through-hikers using state game lands have been permitted to use open fires for cooking or warming purposes.
Recently, however, there's been an increase of open fires at game lands that have nothing to do with the intended uses of game lands. And to address that problem, the Game Commission is putting limits in place to regulate who can set and maintain fires at game lands.
Under the change, persons setting campfires on game lands must possess a valid hunting, furtaking or fishing license, or be through-hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of the fire, and the fires must be attended at all times and extinguished completely before the site is vacated.
Fires will not be permitted at times when the fire index rating used by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is high, very high, or extreme in that area.
A person causing a wildfire, in addition to facing possible criminal penalties, is liable for damages and the cost of extinguishing the fire.
ROE RECEIVES FOND FAREWELL
By the board's next meeting, executive director will be retired
This week's meeting of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners marks the last for Executive Director Carl G. Roe, who earlier this year announced his plans to retire Jan. 17.
Many of the Game Commission staff members who spoke at the two-day meeting in Delmont, Pa., as well as members of the board, and the public, wished Roe well in his retirement.
The board presented Roe with a framed art print in recognition of his service as executive director.
The next meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners is scheduled to be held Jan. 26 to 28 at the Game Commission's headquarters in Harrisburg.
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