Wrong votes can quickly reverse the U.S. conservation progress

Mainly as a result of prodding by sportsmen, elected officials made the conservation movement possible by enacting laws. Conservation of the natural world is still highly desirable to the American public, probably more so than when the conservation movement began around the end of the 19th Century and start of the 20th Century. We see this now in the debates over clean energy, deer management, trout stocking and other issues, some of which can have the result of splintering conservationists. Hopefully this will not allow new laws which do not have the best interests of wildlife and nature in general at heart.

Here in Pennsylvania, several pieces of legislation are now making their way through the legislative process. Some would remove the power to manage deer from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. One, maybe one of the most ridiculous, would revert from the current wildlife management unit system, which applies to antlerless deer license allocations and several other things, back to the old system of using county borders.

I dare use the term ridiculous because the wildlife management unit system is based on logic, on areas with similar land use, habitat, topography and other factors. County borders ignore such things. Another hunter-friendly thing about wildlife management units is that they are well defined by major highways and rivers, whereas county borders are in many places just imaginary lines.

Moving from ridiculous to ominous, HB 1576 would place obstacles before the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in their ability to manage for the benefit of threatened, rare and endangered species.

Resource extraction interests probably have a legitimate gripe concerning the effects that protection of rare and endangered species have on their ability to conduct business. Steps to correct this problem are already underway.

At the heart of this, and other issues already mentioned, is whether it would be best to allow trained professionals to make decisions regarding protection of wildlife, or to add unnecessary political red tape into the process.

In some cases slowing the process of protecting threatened or endangered species might mean losing the effort before it even begins.

Both the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission have widely respected biologists who research wildlife to determine which are threatened or endangered. Both agencies have WCOs who continually provide local input from all parts of the commonwealth. Both of these independent agencies have remarkable records of managing wildlife which are recognized as among the best in the world.

No political oversight committee could improve on the work being done by these agencies.

Politics has no rightful business being involved in wildlife management. It has nothing of benefit to add.

Legislation which would give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the power to place a bounty on coyotes is a another sad example of meddling with wildlife management. Since it does not demand bounties on coyotes, this should not be a back-breaker for conservation. It is the intention of the legislation that is worrisome. It is an just another example of the legislature trying to manage wildlife.

Did none of the sponsors of this legislation do any research?

Just looking at other states would reveal that no other state has a bounty on coyotes. Some had in the past, but bounties proved to be ineffective in managing coyotes.

What is maybe most disturbing about this situation is that both sportsmen and industry has been trying to use the legislature to get around or through responsible management.

In the case of sportsmen trying to manage wildlife, specifically deer, I keep hearing one common theme, that ‘everyone’ agrees with them. If this were the case, it would be a very simple matter to get around Game Commission management of deer. Hunters could easily cooperate to increase deer numbers by deliberately harvesting no deer.

That is not going to happen. In truth, sportsmen are divided on just about every aspect of deer management. And it appears that most are at least willing to go along with Game Commission wildlife management.

Leave wildlife management in the hands of the experts we are paying to do it.