House Bill 2034 – Legislation that should go nowhere
By now, House Bill 2034, Rep. Mike Hanna’s Antlerless Deer
Harvest Committee bill, and reactions to it, have been covered by
several Pennsylvania Outdoor News stories, columns and blogs.
I think it’s a bad bill that doesn’t have a future.
If passed, House Bill 2034 would initiate two main wildlife
management changes – both bad. It seeks to mandate Pennsylvania
Game Commission deer policy, and it would remove the authorization
of antlerless deer allocations from the hands of the agency.
First, Hanna’s bill would dictate that the commission would
manage deer by “maximizing the sustainable harvest.” Although this
term is undefined in the legislation (always dangerous), I gathered
from my conversation with Rep. Hanna that he would like to put the
maximum number of deer in the woods for hunters with a lesser
regard for other factors, such as forest regeneration or crop
Although Hanna claims that he would not want the deer population
to again reach the point where they are “destroying their habitat
or wrecking the ecosystem,” I wonder how a tiny group of hunters
(his committee) would be able to make such judgments about the
entire state and where their accountability would lie.
Second — and the worst of the two parts — HB 2034 seeks to
establish an Antlerless Deer Harvest Committee, whose sole purpose
would be to determine the “correct” number of doe permits to be
issued in each wildlife management unit.
The five-member committee would have one representative
appointed by the Game Commission (but not a commissioner), and one
each appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate, the
minority leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, and the minority Leader of the House.
With Hanna’s bill, the vote of this politically-appointed
committee of non-experts would be binding on the Game Commission.
In other words, that small committee of hunters would have the
final say on the most important part of white-tailed deer
management — the number of antlerless licenses. According to HB
2034, in order to qualify for membership in this all-powerful deer
committee, one would need only be a “licensed hunter.”
Because this is Harrisburg politics that we are talking about, I
fear that there might be another unwritten but understood
qualification for committee membership — making a large donation
to the campaigns of those making the appointments. Have we not seen
that kind of “money talks” influence clearly demonstrated with the
Marcellus shale issue?
Keep in mind the likelihood that those legislators in power
would not be hunters and/or they might not know anything about
wildlife management. It is also possible that an anti-hunter could
buy a license, meeting the minimum requirement for the committee,
and then be appointed to the board.
I also noticed no language in the bill that would prevent
legislators from appointing themselves to the committee. Now
wouldn’t that be peachy?
Hanna asks us to simply trust that the legislature will act
responsibly. Is this something worth risking?