Sportsmen deserve honest advocacy
I am writing to rebut the letter titled “Political web traps state outdoorsmen” (Jan. 12) by Ted Hildabrand.
Hildabrand’s unfounded, untruthful remarks were a slanderous campaign against my organization, Firearms Owners Against Crime (FOAC) and an unwillingness to comprehend the disinformation campaign being waged by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).
I have been working on hunting issues going back into the late 1980s with many excellent state representatives, on both sides of the aisle.
I was also appointed to Gov. Corbett’s Sportsmen’s Advisory Council as a representative for numerous organizations.
Since 1998, the PGC’s operations have been heavily influenced by DCNR foresters and a few radical environmental groups to the growing detriment of our hunting heritage.
At that time, only three men were able to concoct a scheme to permanently reduce Pennsylvania’s deer herd (our official state mammal) by a minimum of 50 percent.
During a five-year period from 2000-04, the deer management reduction program, instituted by the PGC, saw the overharvesting of an officially reported 2,382,353 deer — about 500,000 deer above the normal number that would have been harvested during these five years. It represented about 100,000 extra pregnant does and fawns killed per year.
The PGC has continued this assault to the present day by issuing extremely high annual numbers of antlerless deer permits that target pregnant does and fawns. Some regions were reduced to only 1-2 deer per square mile or less. The PGC does this in compliance with DCNR’s annual political request to slash the deer herd.
The saddest part of their plan? It was a gigantic conservation mistake. Declining forest health and wildlife habitat loss is being caused by forest mismanagement practices by both agencies. Deer weren’t harming the forest as the PGC and DCNR had believed.
The PGC has turned a problem into a crisis that has gotten so large that agency staff cannot admit their failure.
Legislative Budget and Finance Committee studies show that PGC’s actions are costing the Commonwealth’s economy nearly $1.2 billion per year, devastating family run businesses and rural communities.
Bankruptcies and family business closures run rampant. Some northern-tier counties refer to the commission’s actions as “economic suicide” for the county. Pennsylvania is losing $92 million per year in lost tax revenue alone.
Some visionary legislators who understand the crisis stated that “enough is enough” and designed a bill (HB 1483) that would stop these disastrous impacts to wildlife and the state’s economy.
Furthemore, the State Auditor General is now working on an official audit of the PGC, and legislators are withholding a license-fee increase until the audit is completed.
HB 1483 does not give legislators control over the commission. HB 1483 will benefit deer, grouse, and 149 other game and nongame wildlife species.
Further, HB 1483 will stop severe economic losses to the commonwealth and rural communities, and return $1.3 billion per year through improved forest and wildlife management practices that is now being irretrievably lost.
Hildabrand’s scare tactics of politicians “dicing” up game lands for golf courses and ski resorts is more copy-and-paste scare tactics from the PGC.
Some, like uninformed Hildabrand, consider it sport to attack elected officials. These diligent, hard-working legislators, including Representative Rick Saccone, are honorably upholding their duty to represent the ‘truth and facts’ for all citizens of Pennsylvania.
Hildabrand should be ashamed for his specious assault on these good people. Often the PGC claims that a majority of hunters approve of the agency’s deer-management program. The facts speak differently.
In mid-April 2016, a 72-hour telephone survey was conducted and those surveyed were asked if they approved of the commission’s current deer-management program, or if they were in favor of deer-management reform.
The survey included 110 sportsmen clubs and businesses from the central and northern portions of the state.
A sampling of five county chambers of commerce representing roughly 2,000 businesses were only listed as five (5) contacts on the survey. No individual sportsmen were called.
Of the 110 contacts, 109 were in favor of deer management reform, and only oen call resulted in favor of PGC.
More information can be found at www.friendsofpennsylvaniawildlife.org.
I urge all sportsmen and wildlife-loving citizens to see through these unfounded, speculative claims, of Hildabrand and the PGC, and urge their legislators to keep the faith by supporting HB 1483.
(The writer is the president of Firearms Owners Against Crime).