Legislative action got swift response

Harrisburg – When word of Sen. Gibson Armstrong’s amendment that
would strip wildlife conservation officers of their powers got out,
reaction was swift.

The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs asked its
members to contact their legislators and urge them to oppose it
right away.

“If this bill passes as amended, there would basically be no
reason to even have deputy WCOs, as they will pretty much be
stripped of all powers,” read an e-mail alert sent out by the
group.

Individual sportsmen also got involved. One, Stanley Rice, of
Waynesboro, objected to the language for several reasons, not the
least of which was the timing of it.

“I am outraged about this amendment for several reasons,” he
wrote in an e-mail. “First, like the pay raise, it is last minute,
no one knew about this, and it is running over the biggest vacation
week of the year. Few citizens are available, or have legislation
on their minds.

Ed Wentzler, of Montoursville, legislative director for the
Unified Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, also weighed in on the
amendment in an e-mail.

“This legislation severely undermines an already diminished
field officer number. Is the Legislature telling us, the people of
this commonwealth, they condone fewer wildlife resource criminals
being apprehended stealing from every Pennsylvanian “

The Game Commission itself mobilized its forces to oppose the
amendment. Concerned that the amendment “would dramatically alter,
if not cripple” the ability of deputies to do their job, the
commission put on an all-out blitz.

The commission treated the situation as a “call out,” meaning
every full-time wildlife conservation officer in the state was
authorized two hours of overtime to call deputies, key sportsmen
and their legislators in the House and Senate to oppose the
amendment.

They were to ask their legislators to kill the amendment
outright, or at least delay action on it until sportsmen could
weigh in on its merits.

Top-level executives in the commission’s Harrisburg headquarters
told their regional staff that overtime budgets might be buoyed by
funds from the central office, if needed, to carry out the
effort.

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