Pennsylvania Pulls Welcome Mat Back From Poachers – Digital Journal

PR Newswire

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 7

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said, starting today, the Commonwealth has begun to reverse its reputation of being a state with minimal risks for chronic poachers as new penalties – including higher fines and possible jail time – go into effect.

“Some chronic or commercial poachers considered Pennsylvania’s previous fines as merely a ‘cost of doing business,'” Roe said. “However, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Rendell – with the support of the Game Commission and law-abiding hunters and trappers – pulled the welcome mat back from those who would consider poaching Pennsylvania wildlife when they enacted a law establishing a new slate of fines and penalties for those convicted of various poaching-related offenses.”

Act 54 of 2010 was introduced as House Bill 1859, and sponsored by House Game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Edward G. Staback. The bill was approved by the House on July 21, 2009, by a vote of 196-3. The Senate, after making minor adjustments to the bill, approved the measure unanimously on July 3, 2010, followed by a 189-6 concurrence vote in the House also on July 3, which sent the bill onto Gov. Rendell, who signed it on July 9.

“We want to thank Rep. Staback for his hard work and diligence in getting House Bill 1859 through the system,” Roe said. “It was not an easy task, but a needed one.

“Increasing penalties for serious violations is one of the operational objectives within the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Strategic Plan. This marks the first comprehensive piece of legislation to increase Game and Wildlife Code penalties since 1987, and we believe it will significantly enhance wildlife protection in the Commonwealth, especially since this marks the first time that some poachers could actually face prison time for their actions.”

Rep. Staback noted that, from Day One, when he first sat down with Carl Roe to talk about putting an anti-poaching bill together, he wanted the penalties to be so tough that they would become a deterrent, keeping people from committing the crime in the first place.

“I wanted that shooter to know that he faces high fines and jail time for breaking wildlife laws, not just a slap on the wrist like before,” Rep. Staback said. “After three years of effort, working side by side with the Game Commission, the new laws on the book treat poachers and black marketers just as they are – criminals who deserve the stiff penalties that they now will face in the court of law.”

Roe noted that, before the passage of this bill, a poacher could kill every big game animal – which includes deer, elk, bear and turkey – in Pennsylvania and the penalty was the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket with no possibility of jail time.

“Under this legislation, those convicted of killing five or more big game animals, or three big game poaching offenses within seven years, will face possible felony-level penalties ranging from $1,000 to up to $15,000, loss of license privileges for 15 years, and up to three years in prison,” Roe said. “In fact, even the poaching of a single deer now carries a minimum of a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail, with five years license revocation.

“This is an enormous step forward in creating deterrence to poaching. It treats the theft of wildlife, which is what poaching is, similar to the theft of anything else in regards to punishment, and ultimately enhancing the protection of the Commonwealth’s wildlife resource.”

As examples of how the new law would be applied, Rich Palmer, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Protection director, noted that a case from last December in which two individuals who went on a two-day poaching spree that resulted in at least eight dead deer were liable for up to $6,400 in fines and three years of hunting license revocations.  Under the new law, for committing the same offense a violator would be looking at up to $15,000 in fines, up to three years in jail, and up to 15 years of license revocation.

In another example, two individuals were found guilty of killing a black bear out of season last year. They were each charged with committing a summary offense, with fines up to $1,500 and three years license revocation.  Anyone caught committing the same crime now is facing a misdemeanor offense with fines up to $3,000, up to six months imprisonment, and five years of hunting license revocation.

The new law also includes heightened penalties for the buying and selling of game; increased fines for summary offenses, such as using unlawful methods or devices; increased penalties for the killing of threatened or endangered species; and increased jail time for non-payment of fines from 120 days to six months.

“For the person who jacklights a couple of deer, kills a bear to sell its gall bladder or claws, or goes on a killing spree for some twisted reason, Pennsylvania’s wildlife protection laws now for the first time include felonies and misdemeanors that fit the crime,” Rep. Staback said. “Sportsmen are the most vocal group demanding tough treatment of poachers because they know that not only does poaching deplete a resource, it gives a black eye to the sport that we all enjoy and respect.”

Roe noted that a second bill, Senate Bill 1200, would complete the state’s effort to discourage would-be poachers from committing their crimes in Pennsylvania.  SB 1200 is Senate Game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Richard Alloway’s measure to enroll Pennsylvania in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. This bill passed the Senate unanimously on March 23, 2010, and presently is awaiting a final vote in the House of Representatives.

“By having Pennsylvania part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, anyone convicted of poaching-related offenses in Pennsylvania also would lose their hunting privileges in other IWVC-member states,” Roe said. “Similarly, those convicted of poaching-related offenses in other IWVC-member states would not be able to lawfully hunt in Pennsylvania.”

Given the variations of hunting laws from state to state, SB 1200 spells out the specific hunting violations that would place someone who loses their hunting privileges in another state on the Pennsylvania list of ineligible license buyers. This list also represents the only violations committed in Pennsylvania that will be added to the IWVC database.  Those specific offenses listed in Senate Bill 1200 include: unlawfully using lights to take wildlife; buying and selling game; hunting or furtaking under the influence of drugs or alcohol; shooting at or causing injury to a human; counterfeiting, altering or forging a license or tag; committing violations related to threatened or endangered species; assaulting/interfering or causing bodily injury to a Wildlife Conservation Officer; hunting or furtaking while on revocation; and illegally taking or possessing big game in closed season. The list also would include those convicted of other wildlife crimes classified as fourth-degree summaries or greater, such as road hunting, if there are two convictions within a 24-month period.

“Enactment of these two bills will go a long way toward closing Pennsylvania’s borders to those who have proven themselves to be unrepentant poachers,” Roe said. “House Bill 1859 already has been enacted. The second bill, Senate Bill 1200, is nearing the finish line, and I urge our state legislators to enact this bill to improve the Game Commission’s ability to protect wildlife.

“Also, I thank the many sportsmen’s organizations for once again standing up for wildlife and for law-abiding and ethical hunters and trappers for supporting these two measures.”

With the increased penalties and the possibility of Pennsylvania soon joining the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, Roe noted that there is yet a third reason that poachers need to be wary of perpetuating their illegal practices in Pennsylvania: the general public.

“The Game Commission is noticing a renewed ‘we’re-not-going-to-take-it-anymore’ attitude from concerned residents and law-abiding hunters who are taking the initiative to report what they are seeing and hearing, and we applaud them for their efforts,” Roe said. “Calls and e-mails to our Turn-In-a-Poacher (TIP) Hotline have increased and resulted in several solid convictions.  In fact, some of the information is so overwhelming that defendants simply pled guilty rather than having the embarrassment of going to court to try and defend their indefensible actions.

“The bottom line is that Pennsylvania will no longer be walked on – like a welcome mat – by those who abuse their hunting and trapping privileges in our state or other states.”

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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission

via Pennsylvania Pulls Welcome Mat Back From Poachers – Press Release – Digital Journal.

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