Pennsylvania game commission news

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a land exchange with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) involving 69 acres of State Game Lands 278 in Blair County. In exchange for the land, which will enable PennDOT to proceed with construction of Interstate 99, the Game Commission will receive $508,000 to be used for future land acquisitions.
In addition, PennDOT will acquire for the Game Commission a 36-acre tract that is an indenture to SGL 278, which will improve access to the remainder of the larger portion of the SGL. Should its attempts to acquire this tract be unsuccessful, PennDOT will provide an extra $50,000 to the escrow account for the Game Commission. The agency will continue to seek access to the 94-acre section of SGL 278 that will be landlocked due to the I-99 corridor.
Under the land exchange agreement approved by the Board, the Game Commission and PennDOT will drop all pending legal actions resulting from PennDOT’s condemnation of SGL 278.
“This project has been a difficult and challenging one for the Game Commission,” said Vern Ross, agency executive director. “The agency was torn between protecting this portion of State Game Lands 278 or agreeing to stand aside so that a vital transportation link for southcentral Pennsylvania could move forward.
“After months of negotiations and discussions, we believe that the land exchange approved by the Board today represents the best possible outcome for the hunters and trappers of Pennsylvania. I would like to thank Sen. Robert Jubelirer and his staff for playing a significant role in negotiating this agreement between PennDOT and the Game Commission, as well as the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs for its support.”
The negotiations were conducted in accordance with a Board-approved resolution adopted in October of 2000. As a result of these efforts, PennDOT’s original offer of compensation and mitigation was greatly improved.
SGL 278 currently consists of 1,947 acres in Blair and Huntingdon counties.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today unanimously approved five land options that will increase the State Game Lands system by nearly 310 acres.
“The Game Commission’s ability to purchase and preserve lands for wildlife and for public hunting and trapping has always been limited by rising property values and, during certain tight financial times, the limited availability of agency funds,” said Vern Ross, agency executive director. “However, with the license increase approved in 1998, and with the commitment of the Board of Game Commissioners to maximize land acquisition efforts, the agency has worked closely with conservation partners, such as the Seneca Highlands Conservancy, the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy and The Wildlands Conservancy, to preserve additional wildlife habitats.”
The Game Commission has been purchasing State Game Lands since 1920. The State Game Lands system currently contains about 1.4 million acres. Under state law, the Game Commission is authorized to purchase property for no more than $400 per acre, with certain exceptions regarding interior holdings or critical wildlife habitats. Any purchase that exceeds $300,000 must be authorized by the General Assembly and Governor through the capital budget appropriation process, as well as by the Board of Game Commissioners.
Including today’s actions, the Board has approved the acquisition of more than 40,100 acres of State Game Lands since July 1, 1999, when the last license fee increase went into effect.
“State Game Lands represent a tangible asset that hunters and trappers of this state can literally point to as a product of their license fees,” Ross said. “In addition to the bountiful game and wildlife in our state, this is one more reason to view the price of a Pennsylvania hunting or furtaking license as a bargain.”
Following is a county-by-county breakdown of the transactions unanimously approved by the Board.
BERKS COUNTY: The Board accepted a donation of 4.4 acres in Albany Township from Rangers Inc., a division of the Civil Air Patrol. The donation connects two parcels of SGL 106, which currently contains 9,602 acres in Berks, Schuylkill and Lehigh counties. The parcel also helps eliminate potential safety zone encroachments on SGL 106 by preventing development of this parcel.
MCKEAN COUNTY: The Board approved the purchase of 161.1 acres in Eldred Township, adjacent to SGL 301, from Seneca Highlands Conservancy Inc. for $35,000, which represents a purchase price of $217.25 per acre. The parcel provides one mile of frontage along the Allegheny River and improved public access to SGL 301 from Route 155. The parcel, which includes 65 acres of wetlands, also resolves a boundary dispute and connects three separate parcels of SGL 301.
MCKEAN COUNTY: The Board approved the purchase of three acres in Eldred Township, near SGL 301, from Thomas and Mary Wilcox for $900. The parcel provides access to the Allegheny River for hunting, trapping and fishing, and is an excellent wetland used by a variety of wildlife.
NORTHAMPTON COUNTY: The Board approved the purchase of 30.95 acres in Lehigh Township, adjacent to SGL 168, from Wildlands Conservancy Inc. for $12,380. The parcel helps to eliminate potential safety zone encroachments on SGL 168, and is an excellent price for land in an area that is being impacted by sprawling human development. SGL 168 currently contains 5,793 acres in Northampton, Carbon and Monroe counties.
PERRY COUNTY: The Board approved the purchase of 110 acres in Watts Township, adjacent to SGL 254, from the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy for $44,000. While the agency is paying $400 per acre, the Conservancy originally paid $2,145 per acre. To cover the remainder of its costs, the Conservancy is planning to raise funds through private donations from local residents concerned about preserving wildlife habitats in an area that is being impacted by suburban sprawl. There is a one-year timber reservation on the 110-acre parcel. SGL 254 currently contains 945 acres in Dauphin and Perry counties
The Board of Game Commissioners today approved a surface mining coal lease and land exchange with P&N Coal Co., of Punxsutawney, to remove nearly 60,000 tons of coal from a 56.5-acre portion of State Game Lands 262 in Indiana County. The Commission does not own the coal in question, but does own the surface support rights.
The total operation will have a surface impact on 23.5 acres for the actual mining operation and 33 acres for erosion and sedimentation control. The project will involve P&N Coal reworking an estimated 209,730 cubic yards of material to reclaim nearly 1,700 linear feet of existing highwalls and 4.5 acres of abandoned coal spoil piles.