By Rep. Anita Kulik
Being appointed chair of the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee has been an amazing experience. I have been a member of this committee for the past four years and when the chairmanship opened at the beginning of the year, I was asked to take on the many duties of being the committee chair. While this means many more meetings and a great deal of administrative work, it has proven to be an exciting and fulfilling experience.
We currently live in very suburban towns in the West Hills section of the county. But I know that many of us can remember what this area was like, as recently as 30 years ago. The boroughs in our area were well-populated, bustling towns with business and residential districts. The townships in our area were much different, mainly rural areas and farms.
All that has changed. Most of the farmland is gone and instead of crops and cows, we now have beautiful residential developments, commercial centers, and an ever-growing population.
Hunting and fishing were always big in this area. I remember my dad and uncles going out to nearby places and bringing back rabbits and pheasants. There were not many deer in the area, unlike today, where we see deer almost everywhere. I only need to look in my backyard to see wild turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, and other creatures. I talk to many residents who see the occasional coyote or bear, or who have seen eagles flying overhead.
There are many reasons for this, one part of the explanation being that without the farms, we now have forested areas in which these animals thrive. There are other reasons, all of which I am learning more about through my interactions with the Game Commission and sportsmen’s groups.
Our area and Pennsylvania overall have some of the best game lands in the country. We have thousands of licensed hunters in the commonwealth and a large number of out-of-state hunters that come to Pennsylvania to hunt and trap. We have some of the best deer and elk regions in the country, as well as other wildlife.
While it is the job of the legislature to enact laws for hunting, fishing, and the maintenance of our game lands and waterways, it is the job of the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission to implement and enforce the laws.
The legislature has also given the Game Commission the unenviable task of overseeing our wildlife populations, establishing habitats, setting hunting seasons, maintaining the game lands, working with the sports groups as well as the conservation groups, and more. Game wardens also fall under the purview of the Game Commission, making sure our hunters, wildlife, and game lands are protected.
The Fish and Boat Commission oversees not only the aquatic populations in the state, but also the waterways where our aquatic wildlife live.
They police the anglers and the boaters to make certain our waterways are safe and enjoyed by all.
The commission oversees hatcheries, fish stockings, and the regulation of fishing seasons.
Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations to come. As trustees of the resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
I am proud to meet with and work with our various sportsmen and sportswomen organizations.
It is well known that hunters and anglers are our most ardent conservationists. Without hunters and anglers, we would not have control of our wildlife populations, nor would we have the beautiful natural resources found in Pennsylvania.
It is a privilege to chair the Game and Fisheries Committee, and I look forward to bringing out more information as we enter the fall and winter seasons.