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State lawmaker still pushing merger of Pa. Game, Fish commissions

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Educational programs

How good is the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission at reaching potential new fishermen?

An independent review soon will say.

Responsive Management, a Virginia-based outdoor research firm, has been looking at how successful the commission's family fishing, family fly fishing and Three Rivers Challenge programs are at introducing children and adults to fishing and turning them into license-buying anglers. A final report is due in the next few weeks, said Ted Walke, chief of the commission's division of outreach.

Preliminary findings indicate the family fishing program, in particular, does comparatively well in a few areas, he said.

• It increases the number of fishermen. Thirty-one percent of adults identify themselves that way at the beginning of the program; 47 percent do afterward.

• It increases the number of people who plan to continue fishing. Sixty-one percent said they were likely to go fishing again in the next year before participating in a program; 96 percent said they did afterward.

• It increases recognition of the commission. Thirty-nine percent of adults knew before a program the name of the agency responsible for managing fisheries; 65 percent did afterward.

Monday, July 28, 2014, 6:51 p.m.

The idea of merging the Pennsylvania Game and Fish and Boat commissions doesn't look to be going away.

State Rep. Martin Causer, the Potter County Republican who sponsored a study examining the pros and cons of a merger, is pushing to make it happen. Causer has been circulating a memo around the Capital asking other lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors to legislation that would make the two agencies one.

Causer did not return a phone call seeking comment.

His co-sponsorship memorandum makes clear how he feels, though. He wrote that he plans to introduce merger legislation “in the near future” as a cost-savings move.

“Given the concerns about financial difficulties frequently expressed by the agencies and the reality that other states' wildlife agencies can operate efficiently under one umbrella, I believe now is the time to take a more serious look at combining the two commissions into one more streamlined, efficient agency,” Causer wrote.

Pennsylvania is the only state with separate game and fish agencies, he noted. He also pointed out that the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study of a merger determined combining the game and Fish and Boat commissions could save up to $5 million annually, primarily by eliminating some management positions.

The commissions have said making them into one agency would hurt sportsmen and jeopardize efficiency.

Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway said the report also determined his agency is among the most efficient of its kind in the nation, returning more to sportsmen for every dollar spent than any of the other state agencies examined.

The Game Commission also is opposed to a merger.

At least a few lawmakers oppose the idea. Rep. Gary Haluska of Cambria County said at a hearing on the merger hosted by the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee last month that a merger would create problems, not solve them.

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

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