Outdoors Notebook: Chipping away at the wildlife agencies?

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A cluster of legislative initiatives would strip some of the authority the General Assembly has granted to the state wildlife management agencies, and put wildlife-related issues of particular interest more firmly in the hands of lawmakers. Hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers across the state are taking notice, and the Game Commission and to a greater extent the Fish and Boat Commission are fighting back.

To some, it makes sense for issues concerning wildlife to be individually considered by legislators charged with balancing the interests of a variety of stakeholders. Others, representing both sides of the political spectrum, note that wildlife neither vote nor contribute to political campaigns. They're dubious that politicians beholden to various interests can fairly balance issues regarding wildlife, and are concerned that the long-term stability of the state's plants and animals could be subject to changing political winds.

Current proposals that would impact the Game and Fish and Boat commissions include, but are not limited to:

• Much debated House and Senate bills that would change the way endangered and threatened species are managed. The vote was postponed.

• A new proposal to merge the Game and Fish and Boat commissions.

• A House bill that would put a financial bounty on coyotes, strongly opposed by the Game Commission.

• Proposals that would reduce the length of the terms for board members of the Game and Fish and Boat commissions from eight years to four years.

• House Bill 1870 would exclude public land from the DMAP program.

• House Bill 1726 would force the Game Commission to make greater use of a particular method used to manage wildlife and its habitat, opposed by the agency.

• House Bill 1724 would weaken the Wildlife Management Unit system and set antlerless deer permits on a county basis.

Wild pheasants

Wildlife managers say increasingly efficient farming techniques and urban sprawl have contributed to the loss of suitable pheasant breeding habitat.

The establishment of several Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas is an attempt to revive a reproducing pheasant population.

This month the Game Commission and Pheasants Forever acquired birds from the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana and released them in a Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas in Franklin County.

Outdoor films

Venture Outdoors will present this year's BANFF Mountain Film Festival 7 p.m. April 5 and 5 p.m. April 6 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, 4141 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Short films, different each night of the festival, showcase exotic wilderness landscapes and remote cultures. Tickets are $10 to $20, available at www.showclix.com/event/3793863.

John Hayes: jhayes@post-gazette.com.

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