Sportsmen hear from big guns in Pa.

October 25, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - If a show of hands Thursday night at a gathering for sportsmen was any indication of a vote on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania, the issue would lose by a significant margin.

More than 200 men and women - hunters and anglers - came to the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department's community center to hear the heads of the state's fish and game departments discuss their respective agency's roles.

When, during a question-and-answer period the audience was asked for a show of hands on Sunday hunting, about 60 percent indicated their opposition.


State Rep. Jeff Coy, D-89th, brought Vernon Ross, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Peter Colangelo, executive director of the state's Fish and Boat Commission, to talk to the crowd.

Coy, who is running for re-election next month, said he asked the directors to come to Franklin County so sportsmen and sportswomen could speak to them in person.

Hunting and fishing boost the state's economy by nearly $10 billion a year, the department heads said.

Fishing brings in about $1.6 billion a year and nets the state about $55 million in sales taxes, Colangelo said. Hunting represents about $4.8 billion a year in the state's economy, Ross said.

Colangelo said a $4 billion appropriations bill passed by the state Legislature and on the governor's desk for signing would bring nearly $50 million to his department. The money would pay to upgrade fish hatcheries, 62 dams and more than 300 boat launching areas.

The money would come from the general fund and not from license and boat registration fees the department historically relies on for its operating budget, he said.

Included would be money to reopen the Big Spring trout hatchery in Newville, Pa., which the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered closed a year ago because the water flowing out of the hatchery failed to meet new higher water quality standards.

The hatchery was producing about 725,000 fish a year before it was closed, Coy said.

Cal DuBrock, manager of wildlife management for the game commission, gave a slide presentation on Chronic Wasting Disease, which is fatal to whitetail deer and elk. So far, he said Pennsylvania has not been affected by the disease, which attacks the animals' brains and nervous system.

While the disease is prevalent in some western states, it has not wiped out herds in the west because of the animals' low population density. It is spread by contact.

One study showed that should the disease take hold of the highly dense deer populations in Pennsylvania, the entire state's population could be wiped out in 25 years, he said.

Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas are feared to be the next states where the disease is found, DuBrock said.

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