Poaching Bill Re-Worked to Focus on Penalties
By Bob Frye
A revamped proposal to significantly increase the penalties for poaching has been introduced in the state legislature.
Rep. Ed Staback, the Lackawanna County Democrat who chairs the House Game and Fisheries Committee, originally sponsored the House Bill 2205 in the spring. As written, it would have increased the fines for those caught taking wildlife illegally.
Some — including the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League — had suggested that language in the bill calling for violators to forfeit personal property — like their firearms — was too vague.
Given those concerns, Staback held a hearing on the bill and sought other advice. His newly amended bill is the result.
It focuses on penalties for poaching, but leaves any talk of forfeiting personal property — something Staback said could have kept the bill from winning “broad-based support” — for a different piece of legislation.
House Bill 2205 would now, among other things, transform poaching crimes from summary offenses to misdemeanors and felonies. The cost of committing such crimes could be as high as $15,000, 36 months in jail and forfeiture of hunting privileges for 15 years.
The facts point to Pennsylvania needing this kind of legislation, Staback said.
He noted that Pennsylvania has more big-game poaching cases than other state surveyed, including Ohio and Michigan. The black market in animal parts is growing here and across around the nation, he added.
At the same time, Pennsylvania’s game protection laws are “weak” compared to those in other states.
Rich Palmer, head of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bureau of wildlife protection, agreed, noting that if a person steals tools from a PennDOT garage or logs from a state forest, the offense is a felony. If that same person shoots hundreds of deer, however, the penalty is a mere summary offense — the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket.
A coalition of conservation organizations completed a streambank stabilization project meant to improve water quality and reduce pollution levels in Straight Run, a headwater tributary to Little Mahoning Creek.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Ken Sink Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Little Mahoning Creek Watershed Association, Indiana County Conservation District, the Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission installed protective barriers that deflect water away from eroding streambanks.
That’s important, because excess erosion and sedimentation are the No. 1 threat to the Little Mahoning, said Nick Pinizzotto, the conservancy’s senior director of freshwater conservation.
Hunting issues may not swing the fall presidential election, but, given a choice, sportsmen prefer a candidate who reflects their views.
A survey done for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation found that the economy, homeland security and the war in Iraq are the top concerns for all Americans — including hunters — this year. But a majority of sportsmen polled said that it is important for a candidate to share their views on hunting and fishing, too.
The July poll found that 45 percent of sportsmen prefer John McCain and 31 percent plan to support Barack Obama.
For more information on the survey, go to www.sportsmenslink.org.
Volunteers interested in supporting woodcock are being sought to help at an event Oct. 4 in Venango County.
The Allegheny Northwoods Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society will plant trees for woodcock habitat as part of the “Woodcock Habitat Initiative on State Lands” project. The work will take place on state game lands 39.
Anyone planning to help should bring tree planting tools and buckets marked with their name. For info, contact Jeff Perdue at 814- 720-4128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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