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Pennsylvania Game Commission cuts more staff

| Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, 5:54 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is cutting more staff.

Just before the end of the year — citing ongoing financial struggles — the commission furloughed two full-time employees and five limited-term workers. This past week, spokesman Travis Lau said the number of full-time positions cut is up to 28. Most involve letting positions already vacant go unfilled.

But a number of limited-term positions — as many as 45 for seasonal and contract workers — that might have been renewed won't be, he said.

As for the full-time positions that “we do not intend to backfill,” Lau said they include one job in human resources, four in the bureau of information and education, three in the bureau of wildlife management and three in the bureau of wildlife habitat management.

Seventeen other job cuts are tied to the commission's six regional offices.

In the southwest, the commission is going to make do without three wildlife conservation officers, one conservation officer supervisor, one game lands maintenance worker and one clerk typist.

Combined, four of the other five regions are down a mix of conservation officers, game lands workers, a regional biologist and clerk typist. The northwest is not losing any staff.

The wildlife conservation officer shortage may prove to be the most vexing.

When fully staffed, the commission has 135 field officers and six more in a special investigations unit. Nine of those spots are vacant.

Lau said it takes two years to set replacements from the time the commission says it is seeking applicants to graduation.

“With the cancellation of plans to run the 31st (training) class starting March 2017, the soonest we could start a new class would be March 2018, and those cadets would graduate in March 2019. By March 2019, possibly 40 positions are projected vacant: almost 30 percent of the field force,” Lau said.

Lawmakers haven't increased the cost of hunting and furtaking licenses since 1999, and the resulting funding shortfall is driving the cuts, Lau said.

Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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