Pennsylvania’s 1.5 million acres of state game lands are used by more than just hunters and trappers. A new survey hopes to get specifics.
Should everyone who uses Pennsylvania’s state game lands – to hunt, trap, fish, hike, bike, take nature photos or more – pay for the privilege?
We’re about to find out what people think.
California University of Pennsylvania professor Susan Ryan is using a grant from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to conduct a “wildlife tourist survey.” It’s an online questionnaire that seeks “to understand wildlife enthusiasts in Pennsylvania, especially with respect to their use of Pennsylvania state game lands.”
That’s been a hot button topic over the last year-plus.
Pennsylvania’s 1.5 million acres of state game lands are owned by the state’s Game Commission. They were purchased with two chief goals in mind: to provide wildlife habitat and to give space for hunters and trappers to pursue their sports.
They are, however, used quite heavily by “non-consumptive” users like hikers, bikers, birders, horseback riders and the like, too.
At one point in the past 12 months, Game Commissioners explored the idea of requiring those people to buy an annual permit to access the lands, to help pay for the maintenance of roads, trails, gates and such.
It sparked a lot of debate. Some sportsmen suggested the commission move forward, so that all who use the game lands pay to play. Others argued against the move, saying taking money from others would entitle them to a say in how game lands are managed.
It was all contentious enough that commissioners and agency staff themselves could come to no agreement. No permit has been created.
Instead, the agency has been meeting with representatives of those other non-sportsmen groups to find other ways to address its concerns.
Now comes Ryan’s survey.
It asks participants – who remain anonymous – to identify where they live by zip code, their age, and what outdoor activities they participate in. There are also questions about how often they go outside and what motivates them.
That’s all followed by questions about game lands use and funding.
She’s trying to get as many responses as possible.
“The more participation in the survey then the more informative Dr. Ryan’s eventual reporting will be to all users of Pennsylvania’s publicly administered and managed lands,” reads a press release.
Anyone can take the survey here.