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No decisions yet on redrawing Wildlife Management Units | TribLIVE.com
Outdoors

No decisions yet on redrawing Wildlife Management Units

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, August 19, 2012 12:01 a.m
OutUnits0819
The Game Commisison manaes a varieyt of species, including bobcats like this one, on the basis of wildlife management units. It's debating where to draw the boundary lines for those units right now.

You’ve heard the old line, “Sometimes the answer is no?”

Sometimes it’s also, “We don’t know yet.” That’s where things are when it comes to the possible redrawing of the state’s 22 wildlife management units.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission reviews the units — whose boundaries are used to establish doe license allocations and hunting seasons for antlerless deer, bears, turkeys, snowshoe hares, bobcats and fishers, among other things — every five years. They are up for review again this year.

That review began in May when commissioners heard a report from staff suggesting the boundaries be changed in six units and left as are in 16.

One proposal would have increased, rather than shrunk, the size of unit 2B around Pittsburgh. Others would have kept units 2G and 3D in northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania as is rather than cutting them in half.

Those ideas drew the ire of some commissioners and have since sparked debate among hunters in the media, on message boards and within sportsmen’s groups.

Three months later, though, no changes have been made.

“Each commissioner has thrown his opinion to the executive director, and there’s been no consensus,” said board president Ralph Martone of New Castle.

Martone said commissioners have three choices: They could leave the units as is; they could hire an outside consultant to review them; or they could make changes to unit boundaries based on social factors.

Martone said he will put the units on the agenda for the board’s September meeting in Franklin. If commissioners recommend changes to any, he’ll assign a committee to discuss them and present specific proposals to the board by January.

That timeline might rule out changes to unit boundaries prior to 2014. Commissioners have to approve any changes two times — with a period of public comment in between — before they go into effect, spokesman Jerry Feaser said.

That could push final approval to next spring. By then, seasons and bag limits for 2013 will already be set.

The board doesn’t want to hurry its decisions, so if this takes a while, that’s acceptable, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County. But the idea is worth investigating, he added.

Putnam, who argued most forcefully in the spring that 2G might be too big, said the commission could use its data and model some changes in-house to see if they are worth pursuing.

“We could draw a new line and run the data and see what it does to our numbers,” he said. “Whether anyone wants to go to that effort, I can’t say.”

Similarly, commissioner Bob Schlemmer of Export remains interested in looking at shrinking unit 2B. Right now, a lot of hunters descend on 2B after Christmas because doe season runs for an additional two weeks. But too many avoid Allegheny County — where deer are plentiful but access is not — to hunt the unit’s fringes, to the dismay of private landowners, he said.

Schlemmer said he wants to talk to sportsmen and farmers about that over the next few weeks.

“I’m going to wait until I can get all the information I can possibly glean before making any decision,” he said.

If all that takes time, that’s OK, Martone said.

“I’m less interested in a timeline than in getting it right,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

Categories: Outdoors
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