PGC ‘disappointed’ with legislative resources audit

Harrisburg —
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today
issued the following statement on the Legislative Budget and
Finance Committee’s audit titled “Examination of Current and Future
Costs and Revenues from Forest Products, Oil, Gas and Mineral
Extraction on Pennsylvania Game Commission Lands.”

“I have to say
that I was disappointed in the report, and we have major concerns
with the report,” Roe said. “At the beginning of the process, I
asked that two things be taken into consideration as this audit was
being conducted. The first was to keep in mind that, at all times,
we produce habitat first; forestry is a by-product of that
operation and is not the primary mission of this agency. Every part
of the evaluation has to be taken in the habitat context and not a
forestry model.

“Second, we asked
that this not be an academic exercise, but that the team would
understand our situation and produce a report that takes into the
context the real world environment we are operating in. We are a
wildlife agency; we are not the forestry division of the Department
of Conservation and Natural Resources or the U.S. Forest Service.
Unfortunately, I believe the report failed to take into
consideration the two concerns we raised.” 

Roe continued: “As
I stressed to the team, the Game Commission operates under a
habitat enhancement model; not a forestry model. If I may give some
examples as to a habitat approach compared to a forestry one.
First, suppose we have growing on our State Game Lands an oak stand
that is 125 years old. Under the forestry model, this stand is at
its primary value and should be harvested. For the Game Commission,
operating under a model which emphasizes maximizing habitat for
wildlife, if that oak stand provides hard mast for wildlife living
in the area, then we will likely let it remain untouched for the
next 50 years.

“The second
example is that if we have a State Game Land that is surrounded by
either state forest or commercial forest. A forestry model would
mandate an attempt to maximize regeneration in order to increase
the commercial value of the forest.  However, using a model which
focuses on habitat, we would attempt to create a landscape that is
90 percent early successional forest or grass lands, so as to
provide a diversity of food and cover for the wildlife in the
surrounding area.

“I believe these
cases are anathemas to a forestry model because we strive to create
habitat which benefits wildlife. Unfortunately, in creating the
report, the team based its recommendations and findings upon an
analysis which is based upon the forestry model, not the habitat
model under which we operate. 

“We also were
disappointed with the report’s examination of our oil, gas and
mineral program as the analysis is superficial at best. To come up
with an outlandish figure of $1 billion for the specified State
Game Lands is beyond comprehension. If you use the data presented
by the report, it rightly states that we only own 24 percent of the
gas rights in the northeast region of the state.

“Nonetheless, the
report includes projections that we could realize revenue in excess
of $1 billion dollars, based upon assumptions that we own all of
the mineral rights, an assumption that the report itself noted is
false. The revenue projection also failed to take into account
market factors and environmental concerns and limitations. To
include such outlandish projections has no basis in the real-world
limitations under which we operate.

“I believe the
quickest way to summarize our concerns was that we anticipated a
report that was going to attempt to answer the question of whether
we doing everything we can based on our current resources to
maximize our programs. We all know we could do more with more
resources and clearly the report points out things we can do with
more resources. But are we doing what we can with what we have? I
will offer that we are exceeding standards in our wildlife habitat
approach to both timber and OGM with the resources we
have.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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