Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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DCNR official: Hunting always had our support

Harrisburg – After absorbing criticism in recent years for being
anti-hunting – especially when it comes to its Pennsylvania Wilds
initiative – state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
officials have decided to make it clear they support hunting.

They always have, according to Terry Brady, the department’s
deputy press secretary.

“We are 1,000 percent in favor of hunting,” he said. “If there
is one shortcoming of our department, it is that we didn’t tell
people that. We just assumed they knew. But in view of the
criticism we have been getting with the Pennsylvania Wilds
initiative, we realize we have to make it clear.”

Brady, an avid hunter who has worked for DCNR for eight years
after a distinguished career as a newspaper editor, is tired of
hearing people say that DCNR is anti-hunting. “It is not true –
there are many people in the department who are hunters, especially
in the Bureau of Forestry,” Brady said.

“We have 300,000 acres of state parks – at least 80 percent is
open to hunting – and we have 2.4 million acres of state forests –
the only areas not open to hunting are safety zone areas around
occupied buildings.

“To say that we are against hunting is ridiculous.”

Brady believes most of the accusations about DCNR not supporting
hunting come from hunters unhappy with the Pennsylvania Game
Commission’s deer-management program and DCNR’s support of it.

“We view our forests as a multifaceted resource,” he said. “Some
people would like to view them as a deer resource, and we are not
following that path. But we certainly welcome hunting on our
land.”

For months in a chat room dedicated to Pennsylvania hunters and
in various e-mail strings, people have been hammering DCNR for not
promoting hunting in the northern tier of the state, now known as
the Pennsylvania Wilds. Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration, through
DCNR, is trying to make the area a nature-tourism destination.

“People here are cognizant of the criticism that DCNR hasn’t
done enough to promote the value of hunting in the Pennsylvania
Wilds area,” Brady said. “And they are partially right. But in
fairness, the tourism people involved are looking beyond hunting in
the northcentral to try to promote some other values to attract
people to the region.

“But there has never been an intent to imply that hunting is not
a valuable pursuit for the region. It would be shooting ourselves
in the foot not to embrace hunting.”

Brady noted that a panel has been appointed within DCNR to take
steps to counter the anti-hunting criticism. He explained the group
will begin to meet with sportsmen’s groups to explore ways the
department could work with them to address their concerns and
further hunting.

Also, DCNR will immediately begin trying to get the word out
that it is not anti-hunting with educational outreach efforts. “At
the Farm Show and upcoming outdoor shows, we will be showing folks
that we support not only hiking and mountain biking, but also
hunting,” Brady said. “You will see hunting represented in our
displays, artwork and photography.”

Joe Neville, Pennsylvania Game Commission information and
education director, suggested recently that the anti-hunting image
projected from the Pennsylvania Wilds initiative stemmed more from
inept marketing than any agenda against hunters.

“I don’t have concerns about the Pennsylvania Wilds,” he said.
“It’s a tourism-type thing, and it’s true that they haven’t
addressed hunting to the level they should, and that is not a
surprise. The tourism folks just don’t understand hunting and
hunters. But in my conversations with DCNR staff, they know that
and I think they are going to address it.”

Jason Fink, director of the Pennsylvania Wilds Tourism Marketing
Corporation in Williamsport, seemed unaware of the anti-hunting
criticism leveled against his organization. He denied any bias
against hunting.

“The Pennsylvania Wilds Tourism Marketing Corporation is not
against hunting at all,” he said. “It has only been around about
three years, and we are still trying to put together a
comprehensive marketing plan with the resources we have available.
We have not promoted hunting as much as we will be.”

But despite being willing to advertise and promote hunting, Fink
conceded his organization will be careful in promoting deer
hunting. “Given the sentiment expressed by the locals that the deer
hunting is not very good, we don’t want to promise people a great
hunt and have them be disappointed when they are here. We don’t
want to promise something we can’t stand behind.”

Fink admitted that he and other tourism officials in the
northern tier are aware that the seeming collapse in deer numbers
in the region has hurt the rural economy there. “We have heard from
various businesses that they are not seeing the hunters that they
used to, and the fact that hunters are not coming to this area and
going somewhere else,” he said. “But this is somewhat balanced by
the fact that more people may be coming here to enjoy other
recreational opportunities the Pennsylvania Wilds offers, such as
kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing and
bird-watching.”

While the Pennsylvania Wilds concept embraces hunting, according
to Fink, it is about far more. “The Pennsylvania Wilds initiative
is to bring more people to take advantage of all the area has to
offer, to make people aware that there is this great outdoor
opportunity that is pretty much untapped right now,” he said.

Fink is puzzled by the criticism that the Pennsylvania Wilds is
anti-hunting. Far from it, he said. “What we see from hunters is
that they and their families are likely involved in others sports
as well, such as canoeing, kayaking, bird watching, cross-country
skiing, hiking and fishing,” he said.

Sportsmen will see more ads promoting the hunting opportunities
the northern tier offers, Fink revealed. “In fact, we are getting
to it right now,” he said. “In our new regional visitors guide,
that we should have in hand in February, it mentions hunting for
bears, deer and small game. You have to remember, the Pennsylvania
Wilds marketing effort is still in its infancy.”

DCNR values hunters and hunting, Brady noted, and the
organization intends to make it clear. “This knock that we are anti
hunting is just bull – I’m sorry, but it is not fair at all,” Brady
said. “Most of the people in the Bureau of Forestry are deer
hunters. Do you really think they don’t want to see deer in the
forests? We want healthy forests and we want healthy deer.”

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