PA GAME COMMISSION DELIVERS ANNUAL REPORT TO HOUSE COMMITTEE
Hunting- Pennsylvania Game Commission officials today delivered the agency's annual report to the House Game and Fisheries Committee at an informational meeting in the State Capitol. To view a copy of the annual report, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Annual Reports," then select "2003-2004 Legislative Annual Report." The report will be posted at 1 p.m. today.
Following is the prepared statement delivered to the House Game and Fisheries Committee by agency officials.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR VERNON ROSS:
Good morning, Chairman Smith, Chairman Staback and members of the committee.
I have with me today part of the Game Commission team; just a few of the many devoted and talented employees we have at the Game Commission and I'd like each of them to have a few minutes to address you on specific areas of the annual report at the end of my remarks.
It often pays to look back before looking forward. In the past five years, the Game Commission has made it a high priority to implement programs to enhance recruitment and retention so that we can keep our hunting and trapping heritage alive and well in Pennsylvania. Hunting and trapping are our state's best means of managing wildlife populations, from deer to beavers, from bears to geese. For that very reason, I'd like to point out some of the many opportunities we have created, to not only provide our adult hunters with greater opportunities, but to attract our youth as well.
* bobcat season
* three-day muzzleloader season
* two-week concurrent buck/doe for juniors and seniors
* first modern day elk season since 1931
* expanded October muzzleloader season to 7 days, including 2 Saturdays
* three day October antlerless for junior/senior/disabled/military hunters
* approved crossbows for elk, deer, and bear rifle seasons
* expanded the traditional three-day bear season to deal with localized nuisance complaints
* Additional three week antlerless season in WMU 5D
Junior hunting opportunities
* Youth pheasant hunt (2002)
* Youth spring gobbler season (2004)
* Special antlerless deer harvesting opportunities (1998, expanded 2000)
* Youth squirrel hunt (expanded 2004)
* Youth mentoring during the pheasant hunt (2002)
* Second spring gobbler
* Cable restraints usage for coyotes/foxes
* Update of the Hunter-Trapper Education program
The expanded opportunities have made Pennsylvania one of the few states in the nation that is experiencing a gain in our youth hunters. The past couple of years we've seen a gain of two percent or more every year. That is a statistic we are especially proud of and we'd like to continue that trend. This year we also have seen a rise in overall license sales by two percent, including gains in bear, archery and muzzleloader sales.
I recognize that despite all of these expanded hunting opportunities, this past season has strained the agency's relationship with some of our sportsmen. As the Executive Director, I am committed to improving this relationship. We cannot and should not abandon those who have supported the agency through the years and who now desperately want to continue to be part of our efforts. Hunters and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other.
I think everyone in this room knows I am referring to the deer season. Chairman Smith has indicated that he will be holding a hearing on deer management with this committee, so today I'll be very brief and leave the details to that hearing. As we recently have stated, we don't know what happened this past deer season and we won't know until March when we have all the data in and analyzed. But I can tell you this; we will be giving that data a very hard look. Just like you and the sportsmen, we want to know:
-- Where were the deer killed and, more important, where were the places few deer were harvested?
-- What was the age structure of the deer that were killed? Are bucks getting older? Are we shooting too many yearlings? What are the trends in the herd in every location in Pennsylvania?
From this information we will be willing to make changes and be both flexible and responsive. Changes in seasons in each WMU are possible. Not every WMU will be treated the same way.
We must bring a balance to all of our decisions. That balance comes from common sense, open communication and an understanding of those who are ultimately affected by our decisions. Our focus must be on the long-term, big-picture wildlife issues without losing our traditional stakeholders or alienating our new ones.
Today, we have more opportunities to hunt than ever before, but we are not planning on resting on our laurels. We will continue to keep an eye on the future and find ways to increase the number of Pennsylvanians that enjoy hunting and trapping activities. Hunters and trappers are the original and leading wildlife conservation advocates, and the more of them that there are, the more support we all can count on.
BUREAU OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES DIRECTOR CARL ROE:
As we move forward with program accountability in the Game Commission, we took an important step this year. This was the first year that we looked at measuring the results of our execution of strategic objectives in the Strategic Plan. As you recall, the plan includes both outcome and output measures for each of the strategic objectives. Each objective had a program manger and they had the responsibility of coordinating the measurement results with other bureaus and the regions. These measurements are being examined and refined to ensure that they lead to a sound conclusion on how well the objectives were achieved in the strategic plan.
We will use the measurements and other inputs to evaluate where we are in achieving our strategic objectives. The evaluation will be used to make programmatic adjustments to resources during the re-budget period in late spring. This will help ensure that we are placing resources where we need to from a program perspective.
Additionally, we developed the 2005-06 budget using a zero-based budget approach, and we used a programmatic approach to better define actual program costs. The zero-based process was pretty good for an initial effort, and we will improve with each iteration.
The Strategic Plan has several major programs that have not been able to be achieved due to a lack of resources. Some of these programs include: the Point-of-Sale License System; a private lands habitat initiative, Acres for Wildlife; several wildlife research projects; and an expansion of outreach programs just to name a few. Additionally, from a program point of view we need to take care of numerous infrastructure requirements, buildings, telephone systems, and capital purchases of both on road and off road equipment.
The lack of resources places considerable pressure on other programs. The cost of the new labor contract is placing great pressure on many programs. The approximate 13.25 percent increase in pay and benefits over three years requires a constant evaluation of where funds are expended. Since we have held the budget to zero growth and revenues have been constant, any increased personnel costs have to come out of operational programs as the Game Fund can no longer be drawn down at its current rate. Consequently, there will continue to be a decrease in services and increased limits on the agency's ability to achieve the programs in the Strategic Plan and what the public is accustomed to receiving.
Delays in the increase of resources exacerbate the problem as additional programs will need to be reduced or cut and the replenishment of the Game Fund will take longer the further the Game Fund goes down.
I believe we have made significant progress in looking at programs, measuring their progress and building a budget that is more program oriented. It is not as precise as it will be in the future, but we are heading in the right direction. However, without sufficient resources many programs will not be achieved and current programs and service levels will be reduced.
BUDGET ANALYST DOT DERR:
The Game Commission has an authorized complement level of 732 full-time equivalent positions. As of the end of December of 2004, there were 688 filled positions and 44 vacancies. The bi-weekly salaries and benefits are is excess of $1,160,000. In addition to the full-time equivalent positions, there are approximately 135 authorized wage/seasonal positions.
The revenues estimated to be received during fiscal year 2003-04 were $65.8 million. Actual revenues received were $63.6 million. The shortfall was due to weather contributing to the lack of timber sales.
As of the end of December 2004, the agency has received over 75 percent of the estimated revenues for the current fiscal year and is confident that the revenue projection for this fiscal year will be met.
The expenditures continue to be closely monitored through monthly reports, and projections through the end of the fiscal year also are monitored monthly. Cost saving measures continues to be explored and implemented where possible.
In-kind services are captured through monthly reports in order to reflect a more accurate account of work being conducted for habitat improvement. Overtime approval is monitored closely with prior approval and a monthly report submitted to the Executive Office. Personnel Action Requests are reviewed and discussed by the Executive Office committee to analyze the need for backfilling of positions.
Given no unanticipated expenses, the Game Commission is committed to meeting our agency mission while staying within our authorized spending level for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005.
The fiscal year 2005-06 Budget Request currently is in the Governor's Office being reviewed. This request is based on a zero-based budgeting concept. Over a period of several months, we met with Bureau and Regional directors to closely examine projects within program areas and determined projected costs based on activities within a project. Although the zero-based budgeting concept is a work in progress, we will continue to work towards this goal.
As we get closer to the end of the fiscal year, federal allocations are announced and revenues are reviewed, it may be necessary to reprioritize our original budget submission to ensure all mandated personnel costs are satisfied and operating expenses are covered while staying within our approved spending level. Historically, the first two months of each fiscal year we need approximately $13 million to cover personnel expenses and contract commitments.
DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MICHAEL SCHMIT:
The Game Commission has in place a process whereby citizens can register a formal complaint against an agency representative. Once logged into that system the complaint is investigated in a timely basis and the complainant and employee, or Deputy in the case of Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers, are notified of the finding.
Given the fact Game Commission employees encounter and interact with hundreds of thousands of citizens annually, and with many tens of thousands of those interactions being of a law enforcement nature, we are pleased to report very low numbers of formal complaints registered against employees.
During 2004, there were 20 formal complaints lodged against agency personnel.
Of these 20 complaints, 16 have been investigated and final disposition letters sent to the complainant. Four investigations remain open and should be concluded by mid-February.
Of the 16 completed investigations, a finding of sustained was determined in 3; a finding of not sustained in 1; a finding of exonerated in 7; a finding of resolved in 1; a finding of founded in 1; and a finding of unfounded was determined in 3.
For comparison purposes there were 15 complaints filed against Game Commission representatives in 2003, 27 in 2002 and 32 in 2001.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR SCOTT KLINGER:
In January of 2004, I took over as director of the Bureau of Land Management. I am very proud of all the habitat work our employees accomplish on our State Game Lands and with our many public access cooperators. As I have told the Executive Director and Commissioners on many occasions, habitat is not everything-it's the only thing. I truly believe that and so do the men and women of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Our Food and Cover Crews and Land Managers spend countless hours establishing wildlife habitat improvement projects with our many partners. But we can and must do better. Habitat planning at multiple scales will be necessary to ensure wildlife habitats are maintained for future generations. We will be reorganizing the Bureau and placing greater emphasis on habitat planning in the years ahead. We need to integrate our wildlife and forest planning efforts on the State Game Lands.
Some important steps have already been made. We have placed our Regional Foresters under the direction of our Regional Directors with policy being established by our forestry and wildlife team in Harrisburg. Regions have been given specific habitat targets to achieve through our timber management program. Timber harvesting will be used, as a management tool to achieve desired future wildlife habitats; so will prescribed burning and other management tools. We also have fielded six Regional Biologists that will assist our Foresters and Land Managers in developing integrated wildlife management plans for our State Game Lands.
But, we will do more. Working with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of Forestry, we are in the process of developing our Forest Inventory Team that will give us needed information on the condition of our forestlands. Data collected will tell us how fast our forests are growing; growing stocks; estimated yields; and impacts from insects and disease. Data collected will allow us to integrate our timber and wildlife program objectives and ensure long-term sustainability of forest and wildlife resources. Forest Planners, Wildlife Planners and Recreation Planners will work closely together to develop statewide and Regional State Game Lands Plans. These plans will involve the public. These plans will allow us to better manage our precious State Game Lands in the most cost effective manner.
At the same time, we need to do a better job working with private landowners that care about wildlife. Nearly 90 percent of all Forest Stewardship landowners entered the program because they were interested in wildlife. Working with partners such as Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we have placed 20 Habitat Biologists on the ground to deliver Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and other Farm Bill Programs. To date, they have written 128,000 acres of wildlife habitat plans and with our food and cover crews coordinated the planting of 88,000 acres of wildlife habitat. In addition, using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we have hired six biologists to work with private landowners on species of special concern.
Conserving and protecting wildlife habitat will be the greatest challenge in the 21st century. It will not be easy. I look forward to working with all of you to ensure that Pennsylvania has a lasting legacy of wildlife and wildlife habitat for generations to come.
Source: PA Game Commision. Hunting Gear Reviews for all of your hunting gear news, reviews, contest and giveaways. Including our new Hunting Articles area keeping you up to date on your states laws, and hunting information all in an effort to keep you informed.
Hunting & Fishing Home
Hunting Gear Reviews
Hunting Bows - Part I
Fishing Gear Reviews
Copyright 2007 All Rights Reserved