Thursday, January 3, 2019

Three Steps Back

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is 123 years old and after all those years the name remains "Pennsylvania Game Commission" even though this “stand alone” agency is responsible for all birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, whether they are hunted of not. By far the vast majority of those species are not hunted, in fact only a tiny minority of mammal and bird species are hunted for sport. 

For years there has been a gentle push to change the agency’s name to “Pennsylvania Wildlife Commission” but the effort has always been stymied by a vocal minority that wants the organization’s emphasis to remain on that small number of wildlife species that are hunted or trapped.

Unfortunately, the majority of the PGC’s funding is derived from the sale of hunting licenses and excise taxes levied on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Those millions of citizens who are interested in wildlife – the photographers and wildlife watchers – have no easy way to fund programs to manage the wildlife in which they're interested. At the same time the number of licensed hunters and trappers in Pennsylvania is on the decline (down from over a million and having dropped by an additional 34,000 between 2009 and 2016) which will put the agency in a serious cash crunch.

For many years the PGC’s law enforcement personnel were called “District Game Protector”, in keeping with the agency’s name and function of providing “game” animals for the hunting public and enforcing the laws and regulations affecting wildlife populations.

Their title was changed to the more suitable and descriptive “Wildlife Conservation Officer” in 1987 and this it remained for 30 years.

Then came new senior management and, on January 1, 2018, a change in title to “Game Warden”. To this observer it seems as if the PGC is digging in its heels and sticking with a declining group of supporters who just want to see and shoot "game". At the same time it seems that the agency is turning its back on all the other folks who are interested in wildlife.

It wasn’t always that way as demonstrated by the editorial and table of contents in the July 1950 issue of the PGC's magazine, Pennsylvania Game News -


So the District Game Protectors/Wildlife Conservation Officers/Game Wardens may have a new name but instead of merely taking one step backward for every two steps forward, the PGC is going three steps backward in its thinking. The new aim may be more likely to shoot the agency in its own foot than to walk toward the future.


Robert Folzenlogen said...

Yet another disturbing development in the annals of Wildlife Conservation.

Coy Hill said...

I agree with your observations and find the change disturbing. I see this change as being in line with the direction that national politics have been taking in the last few years.