Boaters enjoy time on Kinzua Reservoir.
Drunk boaters sometimes end up as drunk drivers when they take their boat home.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials are looking at ways to link those two crimes, boating and driving under the influence.
A number of states, Pennsylvania included, already tie to two together for purposes of grading offenses, said Corey Britcher, chief of the commission’s bureau of law enforcement.
“Now, not all district justices and judges look at it that way,” he said.
It’s “sometimes difficult” to get them to apply the maximum penalties, he added.
There may not be the political will to change that either.
Britcher said he’s met with officials from the Pennsylvania DUI Association and representatives of lawmakers in both the state Senate and House of Representatives. Among lawmakers, though, he’s encountered “mixed results.”
Some are all for tying drunk driving and boating closer together. Others aren’t, he said.
“They don’t want what someone does on the water jeopardizing their going to work on Monday morning,” he said.
There’s more agreement potentially on two other fronts.
The penalties for driving under the influence increase if there’s a minor in the vehicle, Britcher said. Some seem likewise open to the idea of upping penalties for boating under the influence when there’s a child on board.
Britcher said some lawmakers also indicated they might be willing to talk about creating a charge of assault by watercraft. There is no such thing right now, he noted.
That’s left officers unable to fully prosecute cases like the two this year along when boater tried to use their craft to intentionally hurt other people, Britcher said.
Did you see fewer small fishing boats on the water this year than last?
That’s reflective of the long-term trend.
Registrations for motorboats less than 16 feet in length declined by about 11 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to Bernie Matscavage, director of the administration bureau for the Fish and Boat Commission.
Registration of boats 16 to 19 feet are likewise down about 7 percent.
People are still registering large boats, those 20 feet and longer – if anything, they’re up a bit – so that suggests the people who once had small motorboats are turning to canoes and kayaks instead, Matscavage said.
Launch permit sales – required of unpowered boats to be used at a commission launch ramp of state park lake – are up almost 70 percent over the last five years, he noted. The commission sold 32,036 launch permits in 2011, compared to 95,877 so far this year.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is opening up additional state forest roads for hunters, hikers and others.
There are typically about 2,500 miles of roads open on state forest lands. This latest move adds about 540 additional miles to that.
They’re spread across 18 of the 20 state forest districts. The roads will remain open through January.
The move puts more than 90 percent of state forest land within one-half mile of an open road.
A map of where the roads are located can be seen at here.
60 in 60
The American Sportfishing Association and National Marine Manufacturers Association recently launched a campaign called “60-in-60” aimed at increasing the numbers of anglers in the United States from 46 million to 60 million in 60 months, by 2021.
It’s meant to recruit, retain and reactivate anglers, especially younger segments of the population, given that licensed buyers are trending older.