“As a sportsman, I certainly appreciate the value of our game lands, but I also recognize the financial impact a high volume of public lands can have on the tax base of a county or community,” Causer said. “In our area, the Game Commission is acquiring thousands of acres of land, taking it off the tax rolls, and that can place a heavy burden on local governments and taxpayers.”
House Bill 2229 would require public notice of at least 90 days for all proposed land acquisitions, including written notice to county and local officials where the land is located, and to members of the General Assembly whose districts encompass the proposed acquisition area.
The notice must include the amount of land to be acquired, the location of the land, the purchase price and proposed source of funding for the purchase, and a fiscal impact statement relative to the impact on communities where the land is located. At least 30 days after notice has been provided, the Game Commission must provide an opportunity for public comment on the proposed acquisition.
The bill was referred to the House Game and Fisheries Committee for consideration.
The proposal is Causer’s latest effort to address the financial impact of having a significant amount of state-owned land in a county or region.
Earlier this year, he introduced House Bill 2112 to increase from $3.60 per acre to $5.40 per acre the payment made by the Commonwealth to municipalities, school districts and counties that host state land under the control of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the PGC and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).
To further support rural communities, Causer also continues to pursue a change to state law, through House Bill 444, that would call for 20 percent of total revenue collected from the sale of timber, oil and natural gas on most state-owned lands to be returned to local governments. Like the payment in lieu of taxes, the funding would be split evenly among the county, municipality and school district.
Records show Cameron, Potter and McKean counties collectively are home to more than 475,000 acres of state-owned land. In fact, in Cameron County, more than half of the land is owned by the state.
Both of these bills have been referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for its consideration.