The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 16, 2013

Don Steese column: Merged savings

By Don Steese
For The Daily Item

— Both the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Game Commission have been having financial issues in recent years. A combination of rising prices, ever increasing pension obligations, and the slow but steady decline in the number of license buyers is taking it’s toll on both agencies, causing them to scramble to find alternative financing.

Maybe it’s finally time to have a serious discussion about merging the agencies and at least one influential lawmaker is asking the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee of the State House of Representatives to look into the feasibility and possible cost savings of just such a merger.

The representative who wants lawmakers to study a possible merger is not just any lawmaker, he’s Rep. Martin Causer of Potter County who is the Chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee. He’d like a study to be done and the results available before the end of this year.

This idea has been floated a couple times before and was shot down on both occasions. The “usual suspects,” namely the PGC and the PFBC themselves, were, and are, against the idea. This should come as no surprise as it’s human nature to want to protect your “turf.”

People are almost always wary of anything that may cause them to have to share their power and influence. In addition to the agencies themselves, Pennsylvania Sportsmen have been slow to warm up to the idea of merging the commissions. This is especially true if the merged agencies would fall under the control of DCNR, which is how it works in most states and Canadian Provinces.

I’ve always been one who felt having separate agencies was not the most cost effective way to go and that a merger made a lot of sense from a dollars and cents perspective. There’s no way you can convince me that major savings couldn’t be realized, especially in the law enforcement area. There seems to me to be no reason that WCO’s can’t be responsible for enforcing both game, fish and boating laws. We could, it seems, operate with fewer field personnel and quite a bit less equipment if a merger were done.

The very fact that we’re the only state that maintains separate agencies should make one scratch his head and ask “if it works everywhere else, why not in Pennsylvania?”

I, for one, will be watching this issue very closely during the remainder of the year. I realize that we Pennsylvanians are a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but is it possible that we’re finally ready to join everyone else in the 21st century? We’ll see.

Well, it’s finally happened. Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in Pennsylvania’s wild deer population. Three hunter-killed deer tested positive for the disease, two in Blair and one in Bedford counties. It was probably inevitable given that the malady had been recorded in all the states bordering Pennsylvania. The PGC has a plan in place to deal with the situation as it continues to evolve and I’m certain they’ll be watching developments very carefully, as they should.

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