Harrisburg — Pennsylvania game commissioners at their recent quarterly meeting added substantially to the state game lands system, with three deals especially noteworthy.
First, the commissioners approved an oil and gas agreement with Pennsylvania General Energy Co. The company will extract oil and gas from beneath a portion of State Game Land 75 in Brown and Pine townships, Lycoming County, using existing infrastructure so that there’s no net increase in surface disturbance.
In exchange, the company will convey to the Game Commission 2,195 acres in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, known as the Spring Creek Tract, and 943 acres in East Taylor and Croyle townships, Cambria County, known as the South Fork Tract.
The Spring Creek Tract is considered one of the most prized in the area because of its biological diversity. It will become an entirely new game land, State Game Land 337.
The South Fork Tract will become part of State Game Land 79.
Second, the commissioners approved another oil and gas agreement with Pennsylvania General Energy Co., allowing it to extract oil and gas from beneath a portion of State Game Land 134 in Gamble and Plunketts Creek townships, Lycoming County, and Hillsgrove Township, Sullivan County, provided it confines all of its equipment to one right-of-way.
In exchange, the company will convey to the Game Commission 3,931 acres in Jay Township, Elk County – the heart of the elk range – for what will become State Game Land 338.
The company will also make a $500,000 contribution to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for use in creating elk habitat in cooperation with the Game Commission.
In addition to the land gained, these two gas leases will generate future revenues to the Game Commission, with a 16% royalty rate due on all gas produced.
Third, the commissioners also approved the acquisition of the first game lands located in Philadelphia County. The 17.88-acre site sits within the City of Philadelphia.
Donated by Westrum Byberry LP, the new game land will serve as a gateway for Philadelphians to learn about the Game Commission and what it does.
Hunting with firearms is prohibited in Philadelphia County, but the deer population there is high.
Game Commission Southeast Region Director Pete Sussenbach said much of the archery deer hunting in the area takes place on parcels of an acre or less, so an 18-acre tract that’s open to the public represents a significant opportunity for hunters.
“It’s only 18 acres, but down there, 18 acres is an extremely sizeable property to hunt whitetails on,” Sussenbach said.
Other land acquisitions approved by the board were:
Roughly 245 acres in Cooper Township, Clearfield County, donated by Basin Run Quarry I Ltd. This parcel will allow the Game Commission to repair a game-lands road and restore access to 500 acres of State Game Land 100.
The parcel is completely encompassed by the Susquehanna Headwaters Important Bird Area.
Roughly 7.25 acres in Delmar Township, Tioga County, near State Game Land 313. The parcel will expand the Game Commission’s ownership of the emergent wetland called “The Muck,” an Important Bird Area known to provide habitat and breeding grounds for migratory birds.
Roughly 53.3 acres in Plunketts Creek Township, Lycoming County, adjoining State Game Land 134 and Loyalsock State Forest.
Roughly 3.4 acres in Moore Township, Northampton County, adjacent to State Game Land 168.
The Game Commission also acquired one-half interest in the subsurface oil, gas, and mineral rights to roughly 15,000 acres in and under State Game Land 57 in Wyoming County. Funding comes from the Game Fund.
This gives the Game Commission greater control over any possible future extractive efforts that might impact the unique habitat on the game lands.
Finally, the board approved non-surface use oil and gas cooperative agreements for a total of about 3,818 acres of State Game Land 57 in North Branch Township, Wyoming County. Those are covered by two agreements, one involving 2,885 acres and the other 607 acres.
Board of Commissioners President Kristen Schnepp-Giger said the acquisitions approved at the recent meeting provide a huge benefit for the state’s wildlife, hunters, trappers and other users of game lands.
“Whenever we can leverage natural-resource development on game lands into preserving significant acreage for wildlife, and at the same time provide public hunting and trapping opportunities, it’s a win-win,” she said.
“Some of these acquisitions are particularly special, though, because they provide that benefit on such a large scale, or in places that really need them. It’s impressive and something every hunter can be proud of.”