Land Exchange To Benefit Missions Of PA Game Commission And DCNR

Land Exchange To Benefit Missions Of PA Game Commission And DCNR

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

PHILADELPHIA, PA – -( Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a land exchange with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) that is designed to enable the two agencies to better meet their respective public missions.

The exchange, which now must go through a series of public meetings hosted by DCNR and receive approval from the state Legislature and Governor Edward G. Rendell before taking effect, has been in the development stages for over a year.

“For years, the Game Commission and DCNR – two of the largest landowners in the Commonwealth – have acquired lands for public use, but have differing primary objectives and uses for these lands,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “As land has been acquired, situations have arisen in which contrasting land use policies and regulations have caused confusion for the general public and a decreased ability for each agency to meet its management and public recreational goals.

“In response to this situation, the two agencies have prepared a series of exchanges aimed at easing conflicts, while enhancing the two separate agencies’ abilities to meet their independent objectives.”

Roe noted that, in fact, since 1947, the two agencies have been working collaboratively through a cooperative agreement on management of a large portion of the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, in which portions are designated as State Game Land (SGL) 214 in Crawford County and other portions are within the borders of Pymatuning State Park. Likewise, the two agencies recently have been working collaboratively on the management of DCNR’s surface ownership of SGL 283 in Clarion County, where the Game Commission has easement ownership rights.

“This is truly a win-win situation for our state forest and park visitors and the sportsmen of Pennsylvania,” said DCNR Acting Secretary John Quigley. “We take pride in managing our state forest and parks system for many values and uses. Whether it’s horseback riding or increased waterway access, this acquisition now permits DCNR to offer so much to so many when they visit the Clear Creek State Forest and Cook Forest State Park along the Clarion River Corridor.

“Meanwhile, the tradition and rich heritage of waterfowl hunting and management that surrounds Pymatuning State Park and has been overseen by the Game Commission for many years can only be enhanced by this agreement.”

Roe and Quigley noted that statutory requirements governing exchanges and transfers for both agencies stipulate that such arrangements must be for “equal or greater value.” In this case, it is only reasonable to ensure that the total exchange is viewed as “equal.”

Roe noted that the “equal” exchange requirement might appear to rule out the exchange package which, in total, results in the Game Commission transferring 4,816 acres to the DCNR, while the DCNR is transferring 4,250 acres to the Game Commission. However, as part of the exchange, DCNR is transferring 1,863 surface acres of water, and the Game Commission is transferring its 1,698-acre ownership of easement on State Game Land 283 in Clarion County.

“In reality, the Game Commission’s gaining ownership of the 1,863 surface acres of water from DCNR is critical to the Game Commission’s mission of managing waterfowl in the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area,” Roe said. “The lack of Game Commission-ownership of this area is one of the challenges the agency faces in making necessary adjustments to water levels in Pymatuning Lake that are designed to enhance waterfowl habitat.

“Although DCNR maintains control of water level due to its retaining ownership of the water level control devices, the Game Commission’s ownership of the 1,863 water surface acres will enhance the agency’s ability to manage the area for waterfowl habitat and influence the potential use of water level as a management tool. By agreement, water levels will be changed only when deemed appropriate by the Game Commission, DCNR and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.”

Similarly, Quigley emphasized that DCNR’s gaining ownership of the 1,689-acre easement from the Game Commission on SGL 283 is important to support an increased interest by many stakeholders in the area to provide additional outdoor recreational opportunities along the Clarion River Corridor. While the Game Commission is transferring ownership of its easement and portions of land it owns, the agreement includes a guarantee of a perpetual right for the public to hunt and trap on this land.

In addition to the two major exchanges involving portions of Pymatuning State Park and SGL 283, the two agencies are taking time to address other less significant exchanges that also will enhance other the ability of each agency to address recreational infrastructure needs, which also will benefit the general public’s use of these lands. A breakdown of each exchange is as follows:

  • 1) DCNR will convey to the Game Commission a 4,248-tract of land which is a portion of the Pymatuning State Park, in North Shenango, Sadsbury and Pine townships, Crawford County, adjacent to SGL 214, with the condition to allow for a potential trail use agreement on the abandoned railroad grade to the north of the property, and a two-acre tract of land adjacent to SGL 54 in Heath Township, Jefferson County. DCNR will retain ownership of the areas, and the interior holdings retained by DCNR will generally include current DCNR infrastructure such as the septic sand mounds, the house, the garage, the DCNR Spillway, the “bowl” area, the sluice gates, the water well and the picnic area. The two agencies agree to a shared use of the existing water well, septic sand mound and related infrastructure with each agency retaining a protective right for future use in the event that either agency abandons their respective future use; and
  • 2) DCNR will retain ownership of the area containing the lands currently leased to the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to include the Linesville State Fish Hatchery and its affiliated infrastructure, as well as the land 100 feet perpendicular from the shore into the sanctuary water commencing at and including Linesville Creek.

In exchange for the lands to be transferred from DCNR, the Game Commission will convey to DCNR five tracts or parcels of land or surface easement rights constituting 4,573 acres of SGL 283 in Farmington, Highland and Mill Creek townships, Clarion County, excepting a right-of-way 50 feet in width to the Game Commission; and a 181-acre part of SGL 54 in Heath Township, Jefferson County; a 10-acre part of SGL 62 in Hamlin Township, McKean County, excepting a right-of-way access to the Game Commission , onto SGL 62 through Kinzua Bridge State Park; and a 52-acre portion of SGL 44 in Spring Creek Township, Elk County.

Roe stressed that the lands being transferred to DCNR will remain open to public hunting and trapping.

With today’s approval by the Board of Game Commissioners, future action will include two public open-house sessions, sponsored by DCNR, to gather input on the land transactions. Details of the two open-house sessions are as follows:

  • – The Pymatuning (Linesville) open house will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the Linesville High School Cafeteria, 302 W. School Drive, Linesville. For details, call 814-683-5551; and
  • – The Cook Forest State Park (Kittanning State Forest District) open house will be 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Clarion Holiday Inn, 45 Holiday Inn Rd., Clarion. For details, call 814-226-8850.