A tale of two Pennsylvania stocking programs
Covering the January quarterly meetings of the two agencies Keystone State sportsmen care about most — the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Fish & Boat Commission, I couldn’t help but compare their expensive stocking programs.
The irony of the news about those programs coming out of Harrisburg this winter is inescapable. The Fish & Boat Commission announced that it plans to reduce operating costs by $9 million over the next four years to meet future health-care and retirement obligations for its employees and to fund infrastructure needs.
A portion of this reduction will come from closing two trout hatcheries — Oswayo in Coudersport, Potter County and Bellefonte in Centre County — a move that will reduce annual operating costs by approximately $2 million. The closings will also reduce the agency’s annual trout production by about 10 percent, or about 700,000 fish.
Just up Elmerton Avenue, a few days later, game commissioners were crowing about their pheasant-stocking program. The agency raised and put out for hunters 200,000 birds last fall and plans to do it again in 2013. Even the floods that badly damaged two game farms at the very end of the summer of 2011 did not stop the commission.
Somehow its staff managed to repair and return the Loyalsock and Northcentral pheasant-producing facilities to full production, repairing millions in damage in a matter of months.
Both agencies are suffering from dwindling license sales. But the Game Commission is flush with the proceeds from Marcellus Shale gas under state game lands it owns. Funds are tight at Fish & Boat.
The difference is striking.