During the time of medieval kings hunting was a privilege reserved for royalties and their guests. This was not because the common man could not own the weapons necessary to hunt; nearly everyone owned a bow, sword or spear so they could answer their lord’s call to arms. What they did not own was the land necessary to hunt. You see, all the land was owned by the crown. Even the lord’s did not own their land, they were simply granted title to it in the king’s name.
In modern day Pennsylvania much of the prime hunting ground is still owned by the government. The Pennsylvania Game Commission currently owns over 300 separate tracts totaling over 1.4 million acres. This land, however, is not owned for the purpose of excluding sportsmen but to insure sportsmen across the Commonwealth have ready access to fee free public hunting.
During the recent House Game and Fisheries Committee annual address by PGC staff Rep. Martin Causer (R- 67th District) criticized what he sees as aggressive acquisitions of additional land holding – including over 18,000 acres in the last year. Rep. Causer claimed that the Commission was somehow cheating the rural communities by removing these properties from private ownership and the local tax rolls.
What he failed to address is that the Commission does pay fees in lieu of taxes ($1.20/acre) and further contributes to the local economy by drawing sportsmen to the area. These sportsmen spend vast sums of money on food, lodging and supplies on trips to the area that would be impossible without the access to the State Game Land System.
These property holdings also generate income for the Commission by way of timber sales and Marcellus Shale royalties. This income allows the Commission to not only reduce the need for an increase in license fees, which have not increased in almost a decade, but to also operate without any contributions from the General Fund.
While critics may see the Pennsylvania Game Commission as the big, bad land baron in reality they are much like the lords of ancient times, except instead of holding the land for a king they hold them in the name of every sportsman of the Commonwealth.
Good luck and good hunting!