Sunday, July 29, 2012

Arms Treaty Must Wait After UN Agreement Fails

UNITED NATIONS—A U.N. treaty to regulate the multibillion-dollar global arms trade will have to wait after member states failed to an reach agreement, and some diplomats and supporters blamed the United States for the unraveling of the monthlong negotiating conference.

Hopes had been raised that agreement could be reached on a revised treaty text that closed some major loopholes by Friday's deadline for action. But the U.S. announced Friday morning that it needed more time to consider the proposed treaty -- and Russia and China then also asked for more time.

"This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "It's a staggering abdication of leadership by the world's largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough."

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, also blamed the U.S., saying "they derailed the process," adding that nothing will happen to revive negotiations until after the U.S. presidential election in November.

Chief U.S. negotiator Thomas Countryman refused to talk to several dozen reporters when the meeting broke up.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement Friday evening that the U.S. supports a second round of negotiations next year. "While we sought to conclude the month's negotiations with a treaty, more time is a reasonable request for such a complex and critical issue," the satement said.

The draft treaty would require all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers. It would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

In considering whether to authorize the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists, organized crime or for corrupt practices.

Many countries, including the U.S., control arms exports but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "disappointed" with the failure to reach agreement on a treaty text , which he described as "a setback." He said he remained committed to working with member states to puruse a "robust" treaty on controlling the conventional arms trade.

"A strong treaty would rid the world of the appalling human cost of the poorly regulated international arms trade," Ban said in a statement released late Friday in London where he was attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

The U.N. General Assembly voted in December 2006 to work toward a treaty regulating the growing arms trade, with the U.S. casting a "no" vote. In October 2009, the Obama administration reversed the Bush administration's position and supported an assembly resolution to hold four preparatory meetings and a four-week U.N. conference in 2012 to draft an arms trade treaty.

The United States insisted that a treaty had to be approved by the consensus of all 193 U.N. member states. Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritan, the conference chairman, said treaty supporters knew "this was going to be difficult to achieve."

He said negotiations failed because some delegations didn't like the draft though "the overwhelming majority in the room did." He added that some countries from the beginning of negotiations had "different views" on a treaty, including Syria, Iran and North Korea.
Amnesty's Nossel accused the U.S. of raising eleventh-hour issues "and wanting more time to consult with itself," which stopped the momentum toward agreement.

Despite the failure to reach agreement, Moritan predicted that "we certainly are going to have a treaty in 2012." He said there are several options for moving forward in the General Assembly which will be considered over the summer, before the world body's new session begins in September.

Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, who led the French delegation, called Friday's result "the worst-case scenario." "I'm disappointed but not discouraged," he said. "The ball is now in the court of the General Assembly but the risk is that countries may want to start negotiations from scratch."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the General Assembly needs to decide whether to move forward with the treaty text that was close to adoption or reopen old issues.

"What we have now is an uncertain outcome that leaves in doubt the support of the major arms exporters and importers, including the U.S. and Russia, and that needs to be overcome," he said. "This is a delicate moment and it's going to require real leadership on the part of key states including the European countries, Washington and others."

The powerful National Rifle Association in the U.S. has portrayed the treaty as a surrender of gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The politically controversial issue has re-emerged since last week's shooting at a Colorado cinema that killed 12 people.

But the draft treaty reaffirms "the sovereign right and responsibility of any state to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems." And it states clearly that the treaty's aim is to establish the highest standards "for regulating, or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms" -- not domestic trade.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 51 senators threatened to oppose the treaty if it falls short in protecting Americans' constitutional right to bear arms. In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the senators expressed serious concerns with the draft treaty that has circulated at the United Nations, saying that it signals an expansion of gun control that would be unacceptable.

During negotiations, the United States objected to any requirement to report on exports of ammunition, and that remains out of the latest draft. It does call for every country to regulate the export of ammunition.

Britain has taken the lead in pushing for a treaty. Ahead of Friday's meeting, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg discussed treaty prospects with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in London and both urged the treaty's adoption.

"Global rules govern the sale of everything from bananas to endangered species to weapons of mass destruction, but not guns or grenades," Clegg said. "This anomaly causes untold suffering in conflicts around the world. 1,000 people are killed daily by small arms wielded by terrorists, insurgents and criminal gangs."

The secretary-general said he was disappointed at the failure to agree on a treaty, calling it "a setback." But Ban said he was encouraged that states have agreed to continue pursuing a treaty and pledged his "robust" support.

At the end of the negotiating session, Mexico read a joint statement from more than 90 countries saying they "are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible."

Fish And Boat Commission May Take Meetings To Web

By Bob Fry, Pittsburgh Tribune Review
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has tried a lot of things over the years to draw more people to its quarterly meetings, always with limited success. Now it’s got a new idea.
It may take the meetings to them.
The commission is exploring the idea of livestreaming its meetings over the web.
“It’s the wave of the future,” commission executive director John Arway said.
Whether that future is now is the question, though.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission already streams portions of its meetings — all but the time when public comment is offered — over the web. That’s not drawing huge crowds just yet.
A counter that shows up when someone views the webcast has shown that, at times, viewership has been less than 10 people.
Arway noted that when he was watching a portion of the Game Commission board’s last work group session, there were just eight viewers, including himself and another Fish and Boat Commission staffer.
That’s got some wondering whether the cost of livestreaming meetings — it would run the Fish and Boat Commission between $2,500 and $4,000 per year — is worth it.
“If (the Game Commission) got eight, we’ll get four. And one will be a staffer,” commissioner Bill Sabatose of Elk County said. “I’m not sure it’s worth the money, unless it’s the future.”
Joe Neville, head of the Game Commission’s bureau of information and education, believes viewership of that agency’s webcasts will grow. Already, though, offering them is the right thing to do, he said.
“It’s all about transparency and letting the public see what we do and how decisions are made,” he said. “We can’t make them watch, but we can make it available.”
Ted Walke, director of the Fish and Boat Commission’s division of outreach, told the board that they might want to move ahead with livestreaming for that reason, as well as for the convenience it offers anglers and boaters. He warned, though, that while webcasts are a form of media people are increasingly familiar with, there might be some lag time between when they first become available and when people start to watch them in numbers.
“There’s a guarantee you’re going to reach more people,” Walke said. “To quantify that, that’s the unknown.”
Commissioners directed Arway to solicit comment from the public on whether webcasts are something they want. The answer could help decide how to proceed, commissioner Bill Worobec of Lycoming County said.
“Let’s find out if they care,” he said

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Elk Application Deadline Approaches

Webcast planned for public drawing of elk licenses

HARRISBURG – Hunters looking to participate in this year’s Pennsylvania elk season have until Aug. 26 to submit an application through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS). This can be done at any issuing agent or through the “Enter Elk Drawing” icon in the center of the agency’s homepage (

Applicants must pay a $10.70 non-refundable application fee to be included in the drawing. Details on the elk season and drawing are available on pages 86-88 of the 2012-13 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest, which is provided to license buyers and may be viewed on the agency’s website.

On Friday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m., the Game Commission will hold a public, computerized drawing in the auditorium of its Harrisburg headquarters. At that time, the agency will award the 65 elk licenses, the first 19 drawn will receive an antlered license and the next 46 drawn will receive an antlerless license.

By law, only one application is permitted per person per year, and PALS will prohibit an individual from submitting more than one application. Individuals are not required to purchase a resident or nonresident general hunting license to apply for the drawing. However, if they are drawn for one of the elk licenses, hunters then will be required to purchase the appropriate resident or nonresident general hunting license and view the elk hunt orientation video produced by the Game Commission before being permitted to purchase the elk license. The elk license fees are $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

There is no cap, or limit, for the number of licenses that may be awarded to nonresidents. Individuals who applied in each year from 2003 through 2011 but were not awarded an elk license have nine preference points heading into this year’s drawing if they submit an application this year, and will have their name entered into the drawing 10 times (nine preference points plus the point for this year’s application).

As part of the preference point system established by the agency in 2003, consecutive applications are not required to maintain previously earned preference points, but those points can be activated only in years that a hunter submits an application. For instance, if a hunter has nine preference points, but does not enter the 2012 drawing, he/she will not have any chances in the upcoming drawing. However, their preference points will remain on hold until they apply in a future drawing. Once a hunter is awarded an elk license – either an antlered or antlerless elk license – the hunter’s preference points will revert to zero.

Additionally, hunters who want to earn a preference point for this year, but know that they would not be able to participate in the elk hunting season if drawn, have the option of simply purchasing a preference point for $10.70. While they will not be included in the drawing for the 2012 elk licenses, they will continue to build their preference points.

Those applying for an elk license can choose either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select either sex on their application. For those who select “antlered only,” if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. For those who do receive an antlered elk license, they will not be permitted to re-apply for future elk hunting opportunities for five years. However, those who received an antlerless elk license in any of the previous hunts may submit an application this year.

Applicants also have the opportunity to identify their elk hunt zone preference, or they may select “NP” (no preference). If drawn and their preferred hunt zone is filled, applicants will be assigned a specific zone by the Game Commission.

The public drawing of applications to be awarded licenses will be webcast on Sept. 14. To view the drawing, a special icon will be posted online the morning of the public drawing for individuals to click on and watch the drawing. “Each year, tens of thousands of individuals apply for an elk license,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Unfortunately, not all of them can make it to the public drawings and we are unable to send everyone who applied a letter to let them know whether they were drawn. By webcasting the drawings, we make it convenient for more people to view these events without having to travel.”

Roe also noted that those who have submitted applications can check the status of their applications for the elk drawing, as well as their antlerless deer license applications, thanks to the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS).

To access this information, go to the Game Commission website (, and click on the blue box in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Click on the “Purchase License Permit and or Application/Replace License and or Permit” option, which includes the ability to “Check on the status of any Lottery Application,” scroll down and click on the “Start Here” button at the bottom of the page. At this page, choose one of the identification options below to check your records, fill in the necessary information and click on the “Continue” button. Click on the appropriate residency status, which will display your current personal information. At the bottom of the page, choose the “Check on the status of any Lottery Application” button, and then hit “Continue.”

“While this may seem like a lot of clicking and box checking to get to the information, the system is designed to protect an individual’s personal information, while at the same time enabling that person to check on the status of his or her applications,” Roe said. “In the past, the only way to know for sure that you were awarded an elk license was to attend the public drawings, wait for a letter in the mail or to call the Game Commission.

“Thanks to PALS, we will be able to update the data files shortly after the elk drawing is completed so that license buyers will be able to see for themselves if they were drawn for one of the limited number of Pennsylvania elk hunting licenses.”

Thursday, July 19, 2012


HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced that GPS-enabled applications, or “apps” as they are commonly referred to, are available to provide outdoor enthusiasts easy access to a host of information about all State Game Lands. The app can be downloaded for most mobile devices through links on the Game Commission’s website (
The app was developed by Gogal Publishing, of Warrington, Bucks County, which also has developed a series of fishing apps and maps for Pennsylvania, and will cost $9.99 (plus tax).
“Using a smartphone or tablet’s built-in navigation features, this new app provides turn-by-turn directions to parking lots, shooting ranges and check stations and includes details on 2012-13 seasons and regulations for the destinations you select,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Also, by using the internal map function, each destination can be viewed on a roadmap, with satellite imagery or in a hybrid view allowing you to identify the key features of the local area.”
Primarily purchased with hunter/furtaker license dollars, there are 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands, spread out over 65 of our 67 counties – Philadelphia and Delaware counties being the two exceptions.  These lands are managed by the Game Commission for wildlife and to serve as public hunting and trapping areas. If the more than 300 numbered blocks of State Game Lands were all pulled together, the land mass would comprise an area larger than the state of Delaware.
Simple menus allow users to search for State Game Lands by the State Game Land number, Wildlife Management Unit or by which SGL is the closest to your present location. All results appear in distance order, allowing the user to find the nearest State Game Lands access no matter where you are.
Looking for State Game Lands beyond your current location? Just enter any Pennsylvania city into the search criteria to plan your next adventure. You can even save your favorite destinations for future use.
The app also assists hunters through the “Report Your Harvest” feature to phone in or input harvests and follow turn-by-turn directions to bear and elk check stations.
The “Find Game Commission Facilities” feature provides turn-by-turn directions and contact information to Pennsylvania Game Commission offices and facilities.
“We are working to provide significant enhancements in coming months,” Roe said. “It is our goal to continually improve this product. So, make the most of your next State Game Lands outing with the official ‘PA State Game Lands’ App.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Antlerless License Process Begins

With the state's earliest antlerless archery deer seasons opening a mere two months from today, resident doe tags for the 2012-13 seasons went on sale last week. Nonresident doe tags are available for sale July 30.

As per state law, antlerless deer licenses continue to be sold only by the state's 65 county treasurers, while license allocations are determined according to the Game Commission's perceptions of the individual needs of the state's 22 wildlife management units.

An April 2012 Game Commission study concluded that in WMUs 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B, deer populations are increasing. This year's license allocations for those areas are 2D (62,000), 2G (33,000), 3C (35,000) and 4B (26,000). Closer to home: 2B (67,000), 2C (50,000), 2D (62,000).

Antlerless license fees have stayed the same since 1999 with the exception of a 70-cent transaction fee added to the sale of each license when the Game Commission went to the PALS automated license system. The tags cost $6.70 for residents, $26.70 for nonresidents.

Residents and nonresidents can apply by mail or the Internet for the first round of unsold tags starting Aug. 6.

In the second round, unsold antlerless deer licenses are available Aug. 20.
Over-the-counter sales of tags for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D are available from county treasurers starting Aug. 27, and beginning Oct. 1 over-the-counter sales are available for any WMU with remaining tags.

Got all that? There's a lot more detailed in the "Hunting and Trapping Digest" distributed with the purchase of each hunting license, and at the agency's website,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Whatever happened to Sunday hunting?

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the fall, it looked like the repeal of Pennsylvania's Sunday hunting ban was a strong possibility, if not a slam dunk. With new action last week, Sunday hunting is back on the radar.

House Bill 1760 would have transferred hunting authority from the legislature to the Game Commission, with a mandate to implement some form of Sunday hunting within one year of passage. At the time, legislative Republicans and Democrats agreed that Sunday hunting could provide Pennsylvania with as many as 8,000 jobs and $700 million in new revenue. The state would have joined 39 others, including New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, where some form of Sunday hunting is legal.

In December the tables began to turn following pressure from the influential Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which cited an inconvenience to farmers.

"The discussion has changed in the state on Sunday hunting," said Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, in a December interview. A hunter and Game and Fisheries Committee member, he supported the bill. "The most interesting fact in the debate is that Democrats are now more supportive of Sunday hunting than Republicans."

Last week organizers of a new non-profit group, Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, with links to the National Wild Turkey Federation, signaled its intention to sue the state to overturn the Sunday hunting ban.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pennsylvania Game Commission Takes Aim At ATV Use

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Game Commission limits vehicle access
on state game lands, but some ride their
all-terrain vehicles there illegally anyway.
Randy Pilarcik recently issued a warning of sorts to operators of all-terrain vehicles.
One of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wildlife conservation officers in Butler County, Pilarcik said the use of ATVs, as the vehicles are called, has been on the increase. The problem is many of the riders operate illegally by driving them where they shouldn’t.
The commission has been battling that problem for a while and planned to be more aggressive in the future, he said.
“The rule of thumb for those looking to take their ATVs out for a ride is this: If it isn’t your property and you don’t have permission, then it is illegal to ride there. By heeding this advice, you could save hundreds of dollars in fines,” Pilarcik said.
It turns out that’s soon likely going to be more true than ever.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners this past week gave preliminary approval to a proposal that will make it easier for conservation officers to levy additional fines for illegal riding. The hope is that “stacking” fines that way will deter people from riding where they shouldn’t.
Right now, the commission can fine people for riding ATVs on places like game lands and private properties enrolled in its various cooperative access programs. The fine is typically $100 to $200. That’s not proven to be much of a deterrent, said Rich Palmer, the top law enforcement official in the agency’s bureau of wildlife protection.
“Quite frankly, a lot of people look at that $100 fee as the cost of riding,” Palmer said.
Officers have not had the authority to fine people for riding without a helmet or having the proper registration or insurance. They’ve had to ask local and state police to prosecute those offenses, which carry fines of up to $300 each. This regulation would essentially change that.
If given final approval in September, as is expected, it will make it a violation “to possess, maintain, operate, occupy or travel by all-terrain vehicle or snowmobile in violation of the state’s Vehicle Code.” Officers who catch people in violation of the regulation will potentially be able to fine riders hundreds of dollars each for multiple issues.
“It could make the fines more significant,” Palmer said.
The change is needed because illegal ATV use — and its attendant problems for wildlife and habitat — consistently ranks among the top 10 violations officers deal with each year, commission executive director Carl Roe said.
The agency has been running task forces in each region of the state to combat the problem. In those cases, large numbers of officers — often with local and state police, some operating from the air — overwhelm a problem area in an attempt to stop the activity.
“I will tell you that we spend a lot of time doing these operations,” Roe said.
Several were conducted over the Memorial Day weekend; others are planned for this summer and fall, he said. That’s not solved the problem, said commission president Ralph Martone of New Castle. Illegal ATV use remains persists on state game lands.
It’s a big issue with farmers, too, said Jeff Grove, local affairs director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. It represents one of the chief complaints forwarded by members.
That’s why the bureau supports any effort to give officers the authority to stack fines, he said.
“I think that’s a pretty stiff penalty and a pretty stiff deterrent,” Grove said.
Martone said he hopes that proves to be the case.
“I want us to be more proactive in eliminating this ATV problem. It’s a frustrating and growing issue,” he said.