Notebook: Wildlife agency merger revisited in state House

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Proponents promise it would save money. Opponents argue that if money talks, their issues would lose voice.

Skeptics suspect that the latest legislative effort to merge the state Game and Fish and Boat commissions into a new agency may be part of a larger broad-based effort to weaken the agencies' ability to impede business interests that impact wildlife or habitats.

A resolution introduced by Rep. Martin T. Causer, R-McKean, would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to investigate the financial feasibility, impact, costs and savings potential of merging the state's wildlife management commissions to create a new independent agency.

A hearing on the merger proposal before the House Game and Fisheries Committee is scheduled for Feb. 19.

A lengthy feasibility study in 2003 by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found substantial savings in merging administrative and real estate costs. Opponents saw in the report uncertain consequences of directing revenues derived from anglers and boaters to hunting issues, and vice versa, and warned of putting rural concerns in the hands of urban lawmakers. The wildlife agencies argued the study focused on a single model and failed to detail how the money would flow.

Last year, an effort to combine the Game Commission's $100 million annual budget and the Fish and Boat Commission's $55 million budget resulted in a stern "hands off" from the two agencies.

On Feb. 21, John Arway, executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission, and Matt Hough, newly-appointed executive director of the Game Commission, will discuss the resolution during a telephone conference call with members of the media invited to listen in.

Nymphing classes

Former world fly-fishing champion and U.S. Fly Fishing Team member George Daniel will host two workshops Feb. 15 at International Angler in Robinson. He'll teach a nymphing and tying class 8-10 a.m., registration $30. From 10 a.m. to noon he'll host a free talk based on his book "Dynamic Nymphing" (Stackpole). For details on both classes call 412-788-8088.

Fly-tying demo

A benefit for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. will be held 5-9 p.m. Feb. 17 at Pizza Daddies Restaurant, 5560 William Flynn Highway, Gibsonia. Includes demos by local tyers, door prizes, food, cash bar and fly-fishing gear raffles. $10 admission, 412-316-5033.

Trout meeting

The Upper St. Clair Trout Fishing Club will hold its 7 p.m. Feb. 17 meeting at the new Orvis shop in the Galleria Mall in Mt. Lebanon. Free parking. Following a fly tying demo, Orvis fishing manager Kevin Gerard will talk about trout fishing in the American West (412-835-6107).

Youth sporting clays

Final sign-ups for the California Hill Gun Club's youth sporting clays team, The Smokin' Guns, will be held 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the club. Details

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