Barbin proposes limited merger of Pa. Game, Fish and Boat commissions

JOHNSTOWN, Oct. 26 – State Rep. Bryan Barbin, minority chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, today announced his introduction of legislation that would merge administrative and law enforcement functions of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Barbin, D-Cambria/Somerset, said Pennsylvania is unique in the nation for having separate, independent fish and game agencies, noting that 20 states have combined agencies and another 29 states have agencies within larger departments.

Barbin said his proposed legislation (H.B. 1895) would eliminate redundant administrative, computer and pension services, and create shared law enforcement responsibilities. He said it also would provide for biennial audits.

“As both agencies seek increases in fees, we owe the license buyer our best efforts to find cost savings,” Barbin said. 

A study done in 2014 by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found considerable overlap in administrative and law enforcement duties among the commissions, Barbin said, noting a finding that combining those responsibilities could net $5 million in savings. 

The merger bill would combine the executive offices of the two commissions and create a single director of fish and wildlife services. The bill would also form a single law enforcement bureau with power to administer fishing, boating and hunting laws and regulations.

Barbin said the new combined agency would continue to be independent from the legislature.

“For years, the idea of a combining the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission has been an idea worth considering,” Barbin added. “My bill calls for a limited merger that would save money and benefit hunters, anglers and boaters for future generations.”