Politicians enter the argument over deer
Depending on your outlook, of course, it is either a really good thing or a very bad development that elected officials — politicians — are trying to get involved in or interfere with wildlife management in Pennsylvania.
And it's all about deer, obviously.
Recently we reported that Rep. David Maloney Sr., R-Berks, was seeking cosponsors for a bill he plans to introduce soon that would bring the actions of the Game and Fish & Boat commissions under review of a state oversight commission.
Now Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Centre and Clinton, in a bold and some would say wacky initiative, wants to create an "Antlerless Deer Harvest Committee" that would set (read that "limit") the number of doe licenses made available.
Hanna noted that his bill, HB 2034, "is designed to focus the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on sportsmen, while also giving hunters more involvement in the management of white-tailed deer."
Hanna stressed that his doe-harvest panel would be bipartisan – raising again the specter that deer management is somehow a political issue. I just can't get used to that, but perhaps I am just naive.
We'll see if the doe panel idea is really bipartisan when Republicans who control the General Assembly decide whether to support the measure. I'm betting they won't …
The bill stipulates that just one member of the panel would represent the Game Commission. The other four would be appointed by the four political caucuses in Harrisburg: the House Democrats, the House Republicans, the Senate Democrats and the Senate Republicans. The doe harvest committee's decisions would be "binding on the commission," Hanna pointed out.
"And I can guarantee that the Democratic Caucus will appoint members who have extensive deer-hunting experience and who are committed to deer and habitat and are responsive to sportsmen," Hanna said.
These bills aimed at influencing or manipulating deer-management decisions and policy made by the Game Commission have spurred sharp criticism from some, warning that politicians should stay out of wildlife management.
But Rep. Hanna has an interesting take on that, suggesting that folks who insist elected officials ignore the enduring deer-management debate here are being disingenuous and hypocritical.
"It is always interesting how that works," he said. "When the proposal was out there to combine the commissions, people said that legislators should stay out of resource management — the last thing that they need was to combine the agencies.
"But when sportsmen get frustrated with either agency, we are the first ones they come to. I think legislators need to be involved in the big-picture decisions that affect fishing and hunting and natural resources.
"We are responsible to our constituents and I think this legislation helps us do that.
"The Game Commission is made up of bureaucrats who have been there forever," Hanna added. "The board is made up of governors' appointees who are approved by the Senate.
"It is already very political — I don't expect that we will inject any more politics into the Game Commission and deer management than already exists."
I think Hanna makes a good point, although the prospect of a "doe harvest panel" seems a little over the top. But Maloney's proposal to have actions of the commissions be reviewed by an oversight committe that reviews all other state regulations seems perfectly reasonable to me.
You gotta ask why that hasn't been happening all along. The decisions of unelected commissioners certainly should not be sacred.