Politics and wildlife management

Posted on: September 14, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Buck 1Might politics and deer management be crossing paths again?

Sure, the presidential election is on the horizon.

But is this a case of politics, too?

Sometime after the first of the year, the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General is going to perform an audit of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Seems reasonable enough. Government – whether spending tax dollars or, in this case, hunting license dollars — should be held accountable and made to be as efficient as possible.

But what exactly will auditors be looking for?

“We haven’t set the objectives yet,” said spokeswoman Susan Woods.

How long will it take to complete?

There’s no telling, Woods said. With so many potential variables in play, and a desire to do things right rather than simply quickly, there’s no guarantee it would be finished in 2017, she said.

Why commit to spend what will surely be considerable time and money?

Woods said the audit will be performed at the request of two lawmakers, state Rep. Mike Hanna of Clinton County and Rep. Frank Dermondy of Allegheny. They apparently want to know what the agency is doing with its money.

“It was prompted by the proposal for (license) fee increases,” Woods said.

The commission is asking lawmakers to either increase hunting license prices for the first time since 1999 or give it the power to do so itself. Senate Bill 1166, which would do the latter, has passed the Senate and is up for a vote in the House game and fisheries committee next week.

If it passes out of there, it would go the full House for a vote. The House is scheduled to be in voting session for 14 more days. That’s not a lot of time, but enough to get the bill passed this year if lawmakers want to do it.

But here’s the thing.

The Auditor General’s office told lawmakers it would audit the commission in a letter dated May 23. That’s four months ago already. There are no plans to launch it for close to four more.

It’s been on the back burner long enough that when first asked about it, neither commission nor auditor general spokespeople knew anything about it.

Why is that?

Some have speculated the audit isn’t being taken seriously, saying it’s viewed as a little more than a political attempt to pressure the commission into changing its deer management program in return for a license fee increase.

Hanna, at least, has long been a critic of the commission. He’s prime sponsor, in fact, of House Bill 1720, which would require the commission to shorten doe season to no more than three days, issue doe tags on a county basis and manage wildlife primarily for hunters, among other things.

Others have suggested the audit is being delayed until after Senate Bill 1166 has already been voted on.

Are any of those people right, or is this just a case of the wheels of government moving slowly?

The commission welcomes the review regardless.

“We welcome this opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which the agency maximizes its resources for the benefit of wildlife and our license buyers,” it said in an official statement.

Perhaps good will come from this. Hopefully, it’s not just tax dollars being wasted on politics.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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