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Sports

Game Commission wants to hear from sportsmen

| Monday, Feb. 4, 2002

The key word in the Game Commission's latest proposals for deer season and user regulations on state game lands is "preliminary."

Hunters and other outdoor folks should take time to read the proposals and then let the Game Commission know whether they support or oppose the ideas or have suggestions to improve them.

The proposals involving antler restrictions are basically intended to protect spikes and 3-point bucks in much of the state. Generally speaking, these deer would be 1½ years old.

While I like the idea of antler restrictions, I think they can be improved.

For example, I had hoped the Game Commission would allow Junior License holders to take a buck under the current regulations - that is, a deer with an antler at least 3 inches long.

But the commission apparently rejected that idea and proposed across-the-board antler restrictions for all hunters. They did, however, propose that a Junior License holder be able to take an antlerless deer in any county on his regular hunting license, but if he used his tag to do that then he wouldn't be able to take a buck.

I'm not convinced that's a good trade-off.

For the time being, the commissioners shelved the idea of an October three-day general antlerless season, which I think was a good move on their part. But that idea is certain to return when more definitive deer management units are developed.

A lot of folks have expressed varying opinions about mandatory antler restrictions and regulations on the use of Game Lands. Whatever your thoughts, it's critical that you write to the Game Commission and let the members know. A final decision is set for April 9, and I'm told the commission will weigh public comments heavily.

You should write to Vern Ross, Executive Director, Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg PA 17110.

If you know the name and address of the Game Commissioner for your region, send them a letter, too. Their names and address can be found on the Game Commission's Web site, or you can call a regional office on its toll-free number given in the Rules Digest and ask for that information.

Some folks ask whether they should send a copy of their letter to their local representative or state senator. It can't hurt. With the Game Lands regulations already a political issue, it might even do some good.

Speak now before it's too late.

NAME CHANGE

One of the nation's leading sportsmen's groups is changing its name but not its mission.

The boards of trustees and directors for the nonprofit Wildlife Legislative Fund of America (WLFA) and the Wildlife Conservation Fund of America (WCFA) voted to change the organizations' names to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation.

The WLFA began in 1978 to defend hunting, fishing and trapping and protect scientific wildlife management. The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance will continue to protect the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers across the nation in state legislatures, at the ballot box, and in Congress.

Its companion organization, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation, is responsible for public education programs and legal defense.

"We will continue to defend our heritage against all attacks from those who do not understand the tremendous contribution sportsmen have made to conservation," said Richard Cabela, chairman of the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance.

"This new marketing plan is designed to make us more effective in our work by increasing the grassroots network of sportsmen willing and able to protect America's rich heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping," Cabela said.

In the past few years the organization has seen threats to hunting, fishing and trapping rise dramatically. Spending to protect these sports has not risen rapidly enough to keep up with the challenges. That's part of the reason for the name change and new strategy.

One part of the plan will be a nationwide effort to provide the public with information about the sportsman's role in conserving wildlife. For example, few people are aware that sportsmen pay the lion's share of all wildlife programs in this country - more than $2.6 billion last year - and that amount is on the rise.

The new organization doesn't shy from controversy. Just before its name change, the WLFA issued a news release concerning wildlife biologists involved in a lynx case in Washington state.

According to the WLFA, a number of federal and state wildlife biologists have admitted to falsely planting evidence of Canada lynx in the state of Washington.

Seven biologists - three from the USDA Forest Service, two from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and two from the state of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife - confessed to planting samples of lynx fur in parts of the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot national forests.

The biologists claim they were not trying to manipulate or expand lynx habitat, but were testing the lab's ability to identify the cat species through DNA analysis. None of the seven biologists remain in the lynx survey program. Six were reassigned and one retired.

According to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, if the falsification had not been discovered, severe limitations on multiple uses such as hunting and trapping could have been implemented on affected Forest Service lands.

Lynx were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 2000. The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and several state wildlife agencies opposed those recommendations.

Our organization (U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance) and several other conservation groups believe the establishment of new policies limiting public land usage are designed more to limit recreational use than to preserve this threatened species, the WLFA news release said.

Dave Drakula is an outdoors writer based in Emporium, Cameron County.

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