PLNA Proposes State Funding for Pennsylvania Game Commission

Gregg Robertson, president of the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) recently told the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee that the Pennsylvania Game Commission will require state general funds to avert a continuing fiscal crisis. Commission programs to control deer damage in nurseries and other agricultural operations, such as the deer fencing program, have been suspended due to a lack of funds. Deer annually cause $90 million in damage to agricultural crops, according to testimony offered by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

“A system that funds wildlife management only with hunting license fees is one doomed to produce the results we are now experiencing,” said Robertson. “Demographic trends indicate that the hunting population is declining and, therefore, so is the funding base for wildlife management.”

Robertson quoted data from a 2005 report by the National Shooting Sports Foundation that showed that the actual number of licensed U.S. hunters dropped from 16.3 million in 1980 to 14.5 million in 2003, a drop of 11 percent. In Pennsylvania, the drop was even greater, dropping from 1.3 million in 1983 to 1.0 million in 2003, a drop of 22 percent, double that of the national decline. Robertson said that this decline is expected to accelerate over the next ten years as the “baby boom” generation moves into retirement age.

It has been widely reported in the outdoor press that the Pennsylvania Game Commission will be seeking a license fee increase from the General Assembly this year to avert a funding crisis. But even with a license fee increase, Robertson contends, it only will be a matter of time before the crisis worsens unless the funding system changes. Higher license fees will depress license sales, fewer hunters will mean fewer license sales, and the downward revenue spiral for the Commission will accelerate.

Robertson praised the Commission for the recent release of its urban/suburban deer management strategy. “Many of our nurseries are in rapidly suburbanizing counties, such as Allegheny, Lancaster and Bucks Counties,” Robertson told the committee. “There are many good recommendations in the draft strategy. But every recommendation will need money to implement.”

Finally, Robertson asked the Committee to consider establishing a deer management unit in the state Department of Agriculture in the Game Commission was unable to take on the responsibility of assisting farmers, landowners and communities with deer control.

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