Pennsylvania Elk Season Kicks Off – Shining Example of State Fish and Wildlife Management Success

Contact: Joe Mullin, Manager, Northeastern States

  • September 10 kicked off the archery elk season in Pennsylvania – an “exclusive drawing” opportunity in which 14 antlered and 15 antlerless elk tags were awarded to lucky sportsmen and women.
  • The fact that the Keystone State is able to hold a season at all is a testament to the success of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which was established for, among its many purposes, the protection and recovery of at-risk species.
  • State fish and wildlife agencies have long been recognized as the primary and most well-equipped managers of fish and wildlife in the United States, and it is for this reason that the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has a tenured history fighting to protect their authority.

Why It Matters: State fish and wildlife agencies are instrumental in setting the frameworks responsible for the successful conservation and management of a state’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Sportsmen and women (including hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays — public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. The re-introduction and continued management of an elk population in Pennsylvania is a primary example of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s successful efforts in conserving the state’s natural resources.

This past weekend marked the beginning of the archery elk season in Pennsylvania – a coveted opportunity to pursue one of our nation’s most iconic megafauna. The story of elk in the Keystone State is so fascinating, it has its own page on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) website. Ultimately, it’s a shining example of the effectiveness of state fish and wildlife agencies in protecting species from overharvesting (or in cases such as this where the PGC did not yet exist, the reintroduction of species) while balancing opportunities for sportsmen and women.

Roughly 30 years before the creation of the PGC, elk vanished from the Pennsylvania landscape. A lack of regulations led to the overharvesting of the species, requiring the state to consider what options existed for pursuing a reintroduction. During the early 1900s, the PGC successfully released elk from the Yellowstone region onto the Keystone State’s soil. In the following years since, the PGC has overcome several hurdles in the management of this species and continues to administer a selective elk season in which a small number of tags are awarded based on a preference system. Limiting the number of licenses awarded prevents overharvesting of the species and allows the PGC to better monitor its population goals.

The PGC’s efforts to not only manage the state’s elk population, but to also offer opportunities for sportsmen and women to pursue the species during exclusive seasons, perfectly exemplifies why the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has so ardently fought to support and protect the management authority of state fish and wildlife agencies across the nation. Specifically within the northeast region, CSF has successfully thwarted efforts to restructure fish and wildlife board compositions in Vermont and New Hampshire, aided in the passage of legislation granting the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner the authority to establish a bear season framework and season bag limits, and supported a fishing license fee increase in Pennsylvania following the enactment of legislation granting the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission with the regulatory authority to set license, permit, and tag fees.

This list is neither exhaustive nor does it capture CSF’s three-decades worth of efforts to support state fish and wildlife management authority. To take a look back at CSF’s work across the nation, follow this link to The Sportsmen’s Voice Archives.

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