The appointment of Windber resident Tim Layton to the Pennsylvania Game Commission has raised some eyebrows and generated considerable interest on Internet forums, but the newest commissioner says he is not part of a political agenda to bring changes in either deer management or Game Commission leadership.
Candidates for seats on the Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission go through a process of vetting and interviews by the Governor’s Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, which sends several names to the governor, who chooses a nominee. Next comes confirmation by the state Senate. The process usually takes months, but in Layton’s case, it all happened in a about two weeks.
That has brought speculation that Layton was hand-picked by Gov. Tom Corbett to fill the vacancy created when the eight-year term of Bedford County’s Dave Schreffler expired in June. But, Layton said he has only met the governor once – during the interview process for his appointment.
Schreffler is a longtime supporter of the agency’s current deer-management program and has often been the deciding vote to block proposed changes. Layton, it is speculated, will be the swing vote on a board that plans to make wholesale alterations to the deer program.
But, Layton said Tuesday that those reports aren’t necessarily true.
“I really can’t speak to whether (the nomination) was on the fast track or not, because this is my first time through the process,” he said. “As far as deer management goes, that is one of those hot buttons that is always going to be in the face of the Game Commission. I’m not looking to go in as a commissioner and throw everything out the door. I’m coming to this position with absolutely no agenda.
“I can tell you this: For everyone I have spoken to, whether in Harrisburg or among area sportsmen, one of the concerns is the deer management program. I’m not saying the program has been 100 percent a success, and I’m not saying it has been a failure. But, I think as the Game Commission, we have to look at the whole game management program and find out where it is working and where it’s not and make changes where they need to be made.”
Layton was appointed June 29 to represent District 4, which is made up of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties. His appointment gives Somerset County an unusually strong representation among the state’s wild resource agencies because Lenny Lichvar of Boswell already is a member of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Layton’s first Game Commission meeting will be Sept. 23-24 in Delmont, Westmoreland County.
“I am a guy who loves what Pennsylvania has to offer as far as outdoor activities,” said Layton, 49. “I have loved to hunt and fish my entire life. I have gained that love from my father, and I hope to pass it on to my son.
“Hopefully, I can be a voice for the hunters in my district,” he said. “I want to open up communication between myself and the Legislature, sportsmen’s groups in the area and individual sportsmen. I look at myself as a voice of the blue-collar sportsman. People who are members of sportsmen’s organizations have a vote, and they are heard loud and clear. I like to represent the blue-collar hunter and bring his voice to the table.”
Among the speculations offered regarding Layton’s appointment are suggestions that he would side with members of the board to fire Game Commission Executive Director Carl Roe.
On Tuesday, less than two weeks after Layton’s appointment, Roe announced that he will retire effective Jan. 17. Layton denied there was a connection.
“There were concerns about Carl on both sides, but I have no ill will toward Carl, to be honest,” Layton said. “To say that I took the position to have Carl Roe taken out of office is absolutely not true. Whatever has happened between the board and Carl to this point, I cannot answer. All I know is that Carl has expressed his intention to retire.”
Whether or not Layton’s appointment represents a political agenda or just normal succession in state government, it may bring significant change. The eight-member board that is the Game Commission, and which oversees the agency of the same name, has been almost evenly divided on deer management in recent years. And, a new executive director is sure to shake things up.
“We need to find a balance between what is right for the forest and what’s right for the hunter,” Layton said.