Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Timing is perfect for a meeting

March 22. 2014 11:02PM

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There’s a simple reason why state Rep. Gerald Mullery continues to hold public meetings with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission each year.


Hunting, fishing and boating are popular in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Mullery said he’s frequently asked by constituents when he’s going to hold the next meeting with the PFBC or PGC.

“There is an interest in these meetings and I’ll continue to hold them as long as there is,” Mullery said.

This year, the public meeting with Fish and Boat will be held Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Educational Conference Center at Luzerne County Community College. Mullery said he hopes to hold a meeting with the PGC this fall.

On deck for this Tuesday’s meeting are three presentations that encompass the hot topics of fishing and boating in the area. Representatives from the Luzerne County Recreational Facilities Advisory Board will give an update on Moon Lake Park, Jack Breita of the Nanticoke Conservation Club will talk about a PFBC volunteer program for local groups, and Fish and Boat commissioner Norm Gavlick will discuss fishing on the Susquehanna River, plus other agency issues.

And at the end, Mullery will open the meeting up for a question-and-answer session, where those in attendance can ask the officials anything about fishing and boating.

It’s a valuable service to be able to get questions answered directly from the source, to share opinions and even offer ideas.

And right now, there’s a lot to offer.

There is renewed interest on the legislative front about merging the PFBC and PGC. Last week, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released its study examining the savings potential and feasibility of a merger. The study estimates that a merger could result in an annual savings of $5 million, and Mullery said that’s something he could support.

In addition to the cost savings, Mullery likes the fact that a merger would bring Pennsylvania in line with the other 49 states who manage fish and wildlife resources under one roof, and he believes the action would result in a more uniform level of law enforcement.

Still, Mullery said he isn’t going to introduce merger legislation and some of the more senior legislators he’s spoken to don’t feel a merger attempt would be successful.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“Anytime you have a study like this that shows a significant amount of money can be saved, I can see somebody putting legislation together,” Mullery said.

While cost savings are almost certainly a benefit, I did find a few troubling aspects within the study.

It recommends that the number of law enforcement officers be reduced while still maintaining the same amount of coverage in the field. To do so, non-law enforcement duties would be reassigned. Also, by merging law enforcement functions under the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the study states that a voluntary deputy program may not be feasible.

Anything that could potentially reduce the amount of officers is a risky proposition in this day and age, as poaching and other violations are on the rise. It’s a risk that our fish and wildlife resources don’t need.

The study also recommends against the current format of separate funding sources for each agency, and suggests utilizing general tax revenues to support fish and game initiatives.

Does this mean that revenue generated from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, along with boat registrations, would be directed into the general fund as well? If so, that’s a big concern. The money I spend on a fishing license, for example, should go toward stocking trout and not paving potholes.

Certainly the merger talk will continue to generate many opinions, and that’s why public meetings like the one Tuesday are valuable. So bring your concerns, opinions and questions, and pose them to the people who can give you an answer.

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