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Frye: Hunting may get its economic due

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 11:36 p.m.

We've heard for years that hunting is big business in Pennsylvania. Big, but largely under the radar and largely underappreciated.

Maybe no more.

A partnership of sportsmen's groups, tourism officials and businesses has launched a grassroots campaign meant to make people aware of the role hunting plays in supporting local economies and jobs. “Hunting Works for Pennsylvania” will be modeled after similar efforts underway in five other states.

The campaign will “talk about and educate folks on the economic benefits that hunters provide,” said Vern Ross, former executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and co-chairman of the Hunting Works initiative.

Nearly one million people hunt in Pennsylvania each year, spending $986 million, according to the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. That translates to $121 million in state and local taxes, 15,000 jobs, and a $1.6 billion ripple effect on the state economy, the group said.

One of the 60 groups affiliated with the program is the Pennsylvania Association of Travel and Tourism. Its executive director, Rob Fulton, said his group wants to “welcome and embrace every aspect of our travel and tourism industry,” including hunters.

That would be a change of sorts.

Locally, for example, the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau markets outdoor recreation opportunities. That's included touting state parks and forests where hunting occurs, but never specifically hunting itself, said executive director Ron Virag.

This campaign might change that. Virag said the bureau is putting together its marketing “gameplan” for 2013-14 and may take a closer look at hunters and hunting.

“It's a niche market. But anything that brings people into the Laurel Highlands region is important to us,” he said.

On another note

The Game Commission board may soon have a new member, and in record time.

Gov. Tom Corbett has nominated funeral director Tim Layton of Windber to fill the District 4 seat currently held by Dave Schreffler of Everett.

District 4 takes in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.

Schreffler's term ends today. Board members can continue to serve for six months beyond their final day, however, or until a replacement is named.

Typically, it takes months for the governor's sportsmen's advisory council to interview board candidates, selections to be forwarded to the governor, a nominee to be named and the state Senate to confirm the appointment.

In this case, all of that — short of Senate confirmation, which is pending — happened in about two weeks.

Sportsmen's message boards have been abuzz as a result, with some wondering why things were different this time and whether it's indicative of a specific agenda on someone's part, political favoritism or something else.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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