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Notes from the outdoors

Bob Frye
| Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

Around the Game Commission

• A long-awaited, often-discussed audit of the Game Commission's deer management program could finally get underway soon.

The audit was to have been started no later than last spring, but was delayed for various reasons. For starters, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and designees working on its behalf could find no one — employed or retired — willing to undertake the study because the subject of deer management in Pennsylvania is seen across the country as being particularly vicious and caustic.

Later, the Wildlife Management Institute of Washington agreed to do the study, but not until the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania's lawsuit over deer against the commission is settled.

State Rep. Ed Staback, the Lackawanna County Democrat who chairs the House Game and Fisheries Committee, is trying to get things moving. According to sources, he's pushing for a resolution of the lawsuit so that the deer audit can begin by March. It would still take a year to complete.

Staback had said he wants the audit started, though not necessarily completed, before discussing a bill to raise the cost of hunting licenses.

• Test results have confirmed that none of the 39 elk killed by hunters in Pennsylvania last fall had chronic wasting disease (CWD), brucellosis and tuberculosis.

CWD tests on the elk samples were conducted by the New Bolton Center, the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary diagnostics laboratory. The testing for brucellosis and tuberculosis was done at Penn State.

New Bolton Center also is conducting CWD tests on 4,247 hunter-killed deer samples collected during the 2008 rifle deer season. Results are expected later this spring, said Walt Cottrell, the commission's wildlife veterinarian.

• If you had trouble getting the envelope holding your antlerless deer license application to stay closed last year, you weren't alone.

Numerous complaints about the envelopes were received last year, said Dot Derr, chief of the commission's bureau of automated technology. As a result, the commission has asked the state's Department of General Services for a waiver and permission to rebid the envelope contract.

In the meantime, hunters who have problems in the future can use tape to secure their envelopes, Derr said.

• The Game Commission has approved a lease that paves the way for deep mining to occur near Latrobe.

Kingston Coal Co. of Wexford will deep-mine the agency's holdings in the Freeport coal seam over the next 25 years. The commission owns a roughly 1,500-acre coal reserve there that it received as a gift from the Loyalhanna Coal and Coke Co. in 1969.

The commission does not own any land above the reserve. It will receive royalty payments on the coal removed.

Around the Fish & Boat Commission

• The Fish and Boat Commission has scheduled a public meeting to talk about a proposal to list five mussel species as threatened or endangered.

It will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 2 at the Kittanning Township Fire Department, located at 13126 Route 422 in Kittanning.

Commission staff will give a formal presentation, then take comments from the public.

The commission first proposed adding the five mussels to the lists in October. Final approval was to come in January.

Representatives from dredging companies protested the move, however, suggesting it would cost jobs. That got state legislators involved. They asked for the commission to hold this hearing and consider the matter further.

Written comments on the idea will be taken through March 15. They can be sent to: Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, PO Box 67000, Harrisburg, Pa., 17106-7000. Comments can also be posted at the Web site .

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