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PA House mulls merger of Game and Fish and Boat Commission

By Fritz Mayer
June 5, 2013

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania House has adopted a resolution calling for a study of the potential impacts of merging the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). House Resolution 129 calls on the nonpartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the financial feasibility, impact, costs and savings that may be realized by combining the agencies.

It also calls on the LBFC to explore a range of options with regard to how to structure the state’s wildlife agency to best manage wildlife and aquatic resources of the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where fishing, boating and wildlife activities are managed by two separate, independent agencies. The study is expected to take about six months.

Ten years ago a similar study found that such a merger would be feasible and would save money for the state, but the legislature took no action at the time.

The PFBC is overseen by a board of 10 commissioners, each appointed by the governor and approved by majority vote of the Senate, and the PGC is overseen by a board of eight commissioners who are appointed in the same manor. Members of both boards receive no salary and serve eight-year terms. PFBC is responsible for managing the state’s aquatic resources and PGC is responsible for managing the state’s wildlife and environment.

At a meeting on May 22, PGC commissioners approved two resolutions. The first confirmed the board’s position that its members are opposed to any attempt to merge the two commissions, and members said in a press release, “It’s a message the board wished to convey to the chairmen of both the state House and Senate Game and Fisheries committees.”

The resolution said, “We affirm our commitment to the status of the two independent agencies and that they remain independent with their ability to focus on their primary responsibilities.”

The second resolution announced the commissioners’ opposition to reducing the term of office from eight to four years.

The resolution noted a majority of commissioners believe it “takes a new commissioner several years to understand the broad scope of this complex agency.”

Members of both boards hold quarterly meetings and meet at other times if necessary.