Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Election for PGC prez tight again

By Jeff
Mulhollem

Editor

Harrisburg — The U.S. House of Representatives made history this
month by electing a woman leader. The Pennsylvania Game Commission
has a similar opportunity at its meeting Jan. 23.

A year after losing a protracted, contentious election for
commission president, Commissioner Roxane Palone, of Greene County,
again seems to be in line for the presidency. But unlike U.S. Rep.
Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was easily elected the
first female speaker of the House, there is doubt whether Palone
can garner enough votes to win the commission’s seat.

“I think it would ne nice to be the first woman president, but I
have no idea how the board will vote,” said the retired U.S. Forest
Service employee. “If I am nominated for president this year, I
will accept the nomination. But I don’t want to say anymore than
that.”

One board member who knows how he’ll vote is current Commission
President Tom Boop. He was elected president last January after
Palone pulled out of the election following numerous tie votes.

But make no mistake, it has nothing to do with her being a
woman, Boop stressed. “I think that is non-issue – it doesn’t have
anything to do with the gender of the candidate,” he said.
“Commissioner Palone can be a polarizing figure – the issues
surrounding her candidacy for board president have nothing to do
with the fact that she is a woman. I think it is rather
short-sighted and naive to say it is at all related to her
gender.”

Palone explained that last year after the board repeatedly
deadlocked over electing a president, she bowed out for the good of
the commission. “I withdrew my name last year because I wanted us
to just move on,” she said.

“Having a woman as president of the Pennsylvania Game Commission
would make the agency seem like it was moving into the 21st
century, like we are more modern and up to date.

“It also might help us expand our base because more and more
women are hunting,” she added. “And it might even help us get more
advocates to work against the ‘antis.’ Perhaps that’s just
perception, but that’s my opinion.”

Last year’s election for president of the commission seemed to
be about deer management. Palone and her backers opposed making
changes in the agency’s deer herd-reduction policies. Boop wanted
immediate changes.

But as Boop discovered to his dismay this year, being president
of the commission doesn’t offer much of an advantage for
influencing agency policy. “I thought under the circumstances last
year, that it was an important election for president of the
commission,” he said.

“I thought with the two new members coming on the board we could
put together a coalition to make some changes in the
deer-management program. But unfortunately, that did not
occur.”

In fact, Boop revealed recently that he intends to decline
taking any board officer position if it is offered to him this year
because he wants to devote more time to trying to influence deer
management.

“When I challenged for the office last year, I thought my
leadership style might help us reach compromise and in a
conciliatory manner move the agenda on deer management forward,” he
explained. “I thought I could do that in 2006, but I couldn’t. As
president, I found it somewhat difficult to address the issue
without seeming critical.”

Boop believes that deer numbers on public land in the
northcentral part of the state are too low, stemming from an
overharvest brought on by too liberal hunting seasons and too many
antlerless tags made available. “Someone has to speak out on this
issue, and I think with Commissioner (Steven) Mohr now off the
board, it will have to be me this year. I need to be more vocal and
I feel I can’t do that as an officer.”

Commissioner Russ Schleiden, of Centre County, who was a staunch
backer of Palone in last year’s election, vowed to support her for
president again. “If she accepts the nomination for president, then
yes I will support her,” he said. “Roxane has served on the board
longer than anyone, and she is well equipped to handle the
president’s duties. She deserves a shot.”

But Schleiden, who served as president in 2004, agrees with Boop
that it likely won’t make much difference. “As to who will be the
board president, I think that is very much up in the air at this
point,” he conceded. “But no matter who is president, I don’t think
it will affect the direction of the Game Commission much – it never
has since I have been here.”

Schleiden doesn’t see friction between commissioners as a bad
thing. “Last year’s election was difficult, and it took awhile to
resolve, but I think sportsmen need to remember that it was
eventually resolved,” he said. “I have served on a lot of boards,
and it is not necessarily healthy if all board members agree all
the time.“

The deer-management controversy is never far below the surface
of game commissioner maneuverings, and this election seems to be no
exception. Palone – like Schleiden and her other past supporter,
Commissioner Greg Isabella, of Philadelphia – has advocated
continuing the agency’s deer-herd reduction policies that have
infuriated many hunters.

Their insistence on staying the course exasperates Boop. “It
doesn’t matter what you do – whether you are running your own
business or coaching high school football – you have to make
adjustments as you go along,” he said. “What so frustrates me is
that we have essentially made no changes since 2001.”

Boop admitted he will be looking for a reduction in the 12-day
concurrent season in some management units at the Jan. 23 meeting,
but he doesn’t think there are enough votes on the board.

Palone opposes that approach. “I believe we should regulate the
deer herd by antlerless allocations – by hunting the females – and
we won’t know that (antlerless harvest) until our April meeting,”
she said.

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