Hikers and Hunters: The Feud Continues

10:01 a.m. on January 27, 2015 (EST)
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On January 12, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) announced its intention to require hikers to have permits to use State Game Lands (SGLs), and to ban non-hunter use of SGLs during certain periods of time. (Here is the PGC's latest proposalin case you haven't yet had a chance to read it.)


Last week, Keystone Trails Association, along with many other organizations across the commonwealth  reached an unprecedented number of outdoors enthusiasts in and around Pennsylvania, as hikers, backpackers, and trail-walkers -- in addition to rock and ice climbers, cavers, birders, conservationists, wildlife photographers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers -- took the time to e-mail the PGC - to question, comment, and share concerns about their proposal.  


The result?  The PGC has removed the proposal from their board's January 27 meeting agenda.  They stated that their "board received hundreds of public comments about the proposal and wants to allow more time to properly consult with hunters, conservation partners and elected officials about it."  

Here is the full PGC press release, sent earlier this week.

Unfortunately, while many hope that the PGC will consider recommendations to include the hiking community in discussions about how to proceed -- and while there is an appreciation of PGC's willingness to delay a vote until after the proposal has been more carefully considered -- this issue is far from resolved.  

On a personal note, I both hike and hunt in Pennsylvania and have used various State Game Lands for both pursuits. I really hope the PA Game Commission consults with the hiking community and allows them a voice in this matter.

2:37 p.m. on January 27, 2015 (EST)
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This opens up the old debate.  Hunters pay for their use of the outdoors through license fees, game tags, and taxes on firearms and ammunition, and hikers don't.  In an equitable system, hikers would pay a tax on boots, packs, and other outdoor equipment.  They might have to purchase a hiking license.

5:35 p.m. on January 27, 2015 (EST)
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The problem ppine is that the regulation of hunting and the cost of wild-life management is magnitudes more expensive than the cost of creating a few registration boxes and the maintenance of trails (which is mostly done through volunteerism here in the US)...it is like comparing apples and oranges (both grow in orchards...but they are not the same). Moreover...everyone pays for the right to use public land through our various state and federal taxes...so the idea that some groups pay and some do not is not entirely correct. Lastly...if I am being completely honest...I would venture to guess that non-hunters (backpackers particularly) create more value than they cost...as the many small towns along our largest national trails can attest to.

6:49 p.m. on January 27, 2015 (EST)
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ppine said:

This opens up the old debate.  Hunters pay for their use of the outdoors through license fees, game tags, and taxes on firearms and ammunition, and hikers don't.  In an equitable system, hikers would pay a tax on boots, packs, and other outdoor equipment.  They might have to purchase a hiking license.

 NH's Hike Safe Cards are just going live and it will be interesting to see how they work out. Totally voluntary but covers rescue costs so long as you were merely negligent and not reckless. If you have a hunting or fishing license you get the same deal without needing this card so it is a way for everyone else to put some money in the kitty.

6:02 a.m. on January 28, 2015 (EST)
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Were talking State Game lands here where they backpack..Which is paid for by the Hunters..Sorry I am going to take the Hunters argument on this..Not every backpacker buy's a 20 dollar hunting license but they get the same oppertunity to be on these lands..Honestly I don't believe they should have a voice..Statistically we can't even figure how many Hunters said no to this measure either...

10:04 a.m. on January 28, 2015 (EST)
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Joseph,

Please realize that land management agencies have many different articles of legislation that have to comply with in order to manage their lands for non-hunting recreation. It goes way beyond the building and maintenance of trailheads, trails, registration boxes, picnic tables, and restrooms.

The issue of wilderness designation alone creates a huge backlog of work for agencies in the process of examining their lands for Wilderness Study Areas, WSAa), Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), and Wilderness Areas and Primitive Areas. 

Contrary to public opinion their is a whole field of wilderness management. Permit systems, trial closures, outfitter permit management, and trail improvements are examples of issues that have to be dealt with each year.  Remote country is much harder to manage and more expensive.

Even the US Forest Service operates at a loss each year in spite of receipts from timber sales and grazing leases. One of the biggest costs is the management of recreation.

6:19 p.m. on January 28, 2015 (EST)
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ppine,

I hear what you're saying...but there was no way I was going to list off every aspect of managing trails..particularly since everything differs wildly from state to state. Despite my unwillingness to list everything (and all the permutations from state to state)...my main point remains true...hunting regulation and wildlife management is magnitudes more costly than what is required for backpacking (though the amount certainly differs state to state)...and treating the two as equal is to ignore the reality of their very real differences. Here in Indiana for example...there is not very much overlap between the funds used for hunting and hiking (there is actually very little dollars used for hiking here)...and where there is...a simple "ride-along" with the relevant agents makes clear that the priority of their work is centered around the activities of hunters. For example...when the relevant agent sees a hiker he or she asks if him or her can be of assistance...asks about the intended course (where did you come from?/ where are you headed?)...asks about the experience of the hiker/s (are you having a good time?/any problems?)...and every time I have witnessed such an occurrence the entire event was conducted through the window of the relevant agent's vehicle around trail-heads. On the other hand...when I have witnessed a "similar" occurrence involving hunting it has nearly always been on foot (and I have been told that it sometimes involves a hide)...their is a measure of paper-work involved...sometimes a weapons and ammunition check...sometimes a citation (which presumably involves courts and their associated costs)...the whole event is filled with a perceptible measure of anxiety (I was told to stand some feet away) and takes exponentially more time to conduct than a "similar" event with backpacking. The point is...the two activities are not easily comparable...and to suggest that one group is not paying a fair share of the costs is to look at the matter in too simplistic a way (we both go out into the woods and he pays more than I do)...because as I just demonstrated...teasing out what each activity truly cost is very difficult to do at the level of the individual agent...much less at the institutional level.

I would also note...that while a state or federal agency may run at a loss for recreation and/or hunting it does not necessarily mean that either do not create more value than they cost...I like to think of the relevant agencies as infrastructure (like roads) that make outdoor recreation economics possible. For example...a very limited notion of what comprises of the economic value of the outdoor recreation in the US in 2012 (most convenient year I could find with Google) estimates somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.1 million jobs + 39.9 billion in Federal revenues + 39.7 billion in State and Local revenues (http://www.avcrp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Economic-Value-of-Conservation-Outdoor-Recreation-Historic-Preservation-2-page.pdf)...the same document goes on to try and estimate the TOTAL economic impact of outdoor recreation as the relevant dollars are injected into the larger economy...their TOTAL economic estimates (which I would argue are conservative in some ways) suggest somewhere in the neighborhood of 11.9 million jobs + 197 billion in Federal and State revenue + 813 billion in US GDP or 1.6 trillion in total economic output.

11:29 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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All agencies operate at a loss, not just for recreation.

Recreation occurs 12 months a year. Hunting occurs for a month or two.

It cost a lot to manage recreation and users pay almost nothing.

1:13 p.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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I wonder how much it costs in Alaska to manage wilderness land?  You'd think it'd be about a trillion dollars a day for the amount of land there is.

Then again, we all pay taxes to use our public lands or wilderness areas.  We all pay gas taxes and other taxes to drive our public roads.  Should we therefore get permits and make all roads toll roads in addition?

If my tax dollars go to buy Predator drones for the govt instead of going to national parks and forests, that's not my choice.  The choice is a political one and reflects someone else's priorities. 

Plus, hunters "harvest" or cull meat from the backcountry and so they pay money for this meat or fish.  Why should they get it for free?  Hikers do not harvest meat or fish or ginseng or galax or trees or whatever else.  They walk and camp. 

Sadly, in a hundred years America the beautiful will have over a billion people and every spot will be fee-use only and every hiker carefully tabulated and surveyed with fees and regulations and permits and footnote provisions.  A backpacking in the future will need a lawyer to work out the details and every night will cost money and every campsite must be reserved.

Meanwhile, 15 million cars will drive thru the Smokies and not pay a dime.

6:00 p.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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ppine...the actual act of hunting may only happen a few months of the year (here in Indiana you can hunt some species in the spring and fall and hunting generally takes place 5-6 months of the year)...but the work required by federal and state agencies for hunting goes on all year. For example...many years ago I helped produce estimates for deer populations...which is a nice way of saying I counted piles of deer poop along a transect. I did all of this work in the off-season...it was time-consuming and expensive since I wasn't the only one doing it and believe it or not there is a base-line of education required to count piles of deer poop.

I would add (as Tipi did)...that it is only fair to consider along with the cost of hunting the value of the resources harvested...and if my hunting friends are any indicator...hunting is financially profitable (cost savings at the grocery store) which cannot be said of backpacking and hiking. This isn't simply my experience either...as there are a number of studies which looks at poverty within rural areas which suggest that hunting is a crucial source of income which explains in part some of the differences between the impoverished in rural areas and those in urban areas.

10:11 p.m. on March 8, 2015 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

Were talking State Game lands here where they backpack..Which is paid for by the Hunters..Sorry I am going to take the Hunters argument on this..Not every backpacker buy's a 20 dollar hunting license but they get the same oppertunity to be on these lands..Honestly I don't believe they should have a voice..Statistically we can't even figure how many Hunters said no to this measure either...

 I have to agree with this, and second the earlier mention of hiking/camping/backpacking gear being taxed at a small percentage to help pay for trail/park upkeep, as long as it didn't end up in the general fund and was allowed to accrue year after year if not spent.

10:12 a.m. on March 9, 2015 (EDT)
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I agree with Phil's point that money generated by non-consumptive users like hikers and backpackers would go directly to outdoor recreation budgets of Federal agencies.

9:41 p.m. on March 24, 2015 (EDT)
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I just need to know if the Susquehannock Trail is on state gaming lands. I plan to do the trail sometime and would need to for future reference if I will need a permit.

I see no issue having to pay for a state hiking permit. However I am sure it all depends on the terms. 

9:13 a.m. on April 2, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi, I can't answer your question directly, but the folks at the Susquehannock Trail Club should be able to.

6:28 p.m. on June 7, 2015 (EDT)
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As a former Pennsylvania hunter and backpacker I know:

The Rules go PA State Games Lands

1. no camping (You can backpack THROUGH State Game Lands but not camp in them.)

2. no fires

3. no littering

Pennsylvania is the only state that has State Game Lands. These lands are extensive, far outnumbering the COMBINED acreage of state and national parks and they are in every part of the state, creating excellent habitat for flora and fauna.

And now, if he PA Game Commission wants no hiking during hunting seasons. I can see the safety reasoning but not the wisdom.

The Game Commission needs public good will to remain independent of the PA General Assembly. Their budget does NOT come from state taxes but from license fees, fines and gifts of land and money. Almost every year the politicians in Harrisburg try to get their hands on Game and Fish Commission moneys. And every year they fail.

Hopefully the Game and Fish Commissions stay independent of Harrisburg and the general fund. Other states, Ohio for example, have a joint "Fish & Game" Department that is woefully underfunded and understaffed because the politicians decide how much they get from  taxes and the additional monies the Fish & Game Departments raise.

So here's hoping the Game Commission hears the hikers. A good compromise would be to require that ALL people in State Game Lands during any hunting season must wear the mandatory blaze orange that hunters are required to wear. This is also common sense. Also no non-hunters may interfere with hunting activities.

11:23 p.m. on June 9, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanks 300winmag,

I didn't know the situation there, that's very interesting.

As far as managing the use (people & their activities) we have some similar issues in our local Wildlife Management Areas.

One of my favorite WMA's allows camping in certain spots except during Turkey season, or on Sundays during Duck Season.

These use & management rules have been hotly debated for years, I can personally see both sides of the issue and I'm okay with the hiking / camping restrictions for my local WMA's.

It is a compromise.

10:11 a.m. on July 2, 2015 (EDT)
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The system will never be equitable until non-consumptive users help pay for the management of wild lands through user fees or taxes on equipment.

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