Hunting, Forests

Farmers Pleased with Landowner Liability Bill

Landowners who allow hunting on their properties can be held responsible for Game Code violations, under current law, but SB 1403 would limit that liability. 

The legislation breezed through the state Senate unanimously last week, and appears to have farmers’ support.  “You just don’t have that much cash around, you know, to try and defend yourself for something that you shouldn’t have been held liable for to begin with,” explains Adams County Farm Bureau president Dan Wilkinson. 

While Wilkinson hasn’t dealt with such liability issues himself, he supports the measure as being in farmers’ best interest. 

 “We should be encouraging farmers and landowners to open their land for hunting and other recreational purposes instead of threatening them with legal consequences for the actions of others,” said State Senator Richard Alloway (R-Franklin/Adams) in a written statement.  Alloway is both the bill’s prime sponsor and Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee. 

“You’d have people standing on top of each other,” added Wilkinson about the prospect of limiting hunting to state-owned game lands.  About 80% of the huntable land in the state is owned by farmers and other private landowners.    

The bill does specify that property owners could still be held responsible if they receive a payment or fee from the hunter.   It now awaits House committee action.

Amish Population Grows… Especially in New York State

Nationally, the Amish population grew by about 10% over the past two years.  But New York’s growth rate was three times that of any other state.  “Pennsylvania for example… had a growth rate of 7%, in Wisconsin it was 10%, but New York was 31%,” says Don Kraybill, senior fellow in the Young Center for Anabaptist Studies at Elizabethtown College.  “Over the last two years, there have been ten new geographical settlements of Amish that were founded in New York state,” Kraybill adds. 

Why is the Empire State home to such rapid growth in Amish population?  For one, it’s close to the Amish hubs of PA and OH.  Kraybill also tells us that central New York is home to plenty of isolated, rural land.  “In some of those areas, non-Amish farmers are interested in selling their farms or leaving the farms, so it’s possible to purchase farmland at fairly low cost.”   

There are about 261,000 Amish living in 28 states.  “In general the Amish population is on track to double about every 16-years or so,” Kraybill says.  He assures us that Pennsylvania is still the biggest Amish state with about 61,000 adults and children.  Meanwhile, New York has ascended to 5th on that list, due to its recent growth. 

About half of Pennsylvania’s Amish are in the Lancaster settlement.  The other half are scattered across 54-different geographical communities throughout the state.