There are grave concerns about a piece of legislation recently introduced as the Endangered Species Coordination Act (also known as House Bill 1576). The intended purpose of HB 1576 is to “provide consistency, transparency and accountability in threatened and endangered species management in the commonwealth.” The bill is clearly NOT about protecting endangered species and their habitats. If this legislation is enacted, the habitats of Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species of plants and animals that are not already protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 will be at risk.
Here are some concerns expressed by some of the experts on habitat protection and the law:
• HB 1576 violates the public trust doctrine and the Pennsylvania Constitution. *
• HB 1576 would interject politics and other non-science based considerations into listing decisions made by the Fish and Game Commissions, in stark contrast to the federal Endangered Species Act. *
• The federal Endangered Species Act is designed to conserve and not preserve threatened and endangered species, but HB 1576 prevents the Commissions from managing habitat for species recovery. *
• HB 1576 does not impose an affirmative obligation on persons to protect listed species and habitat, as does the federal Endangered Species Act. *
• This is not just about saving a pretty plant or fuzzy critter; species are worth protecting because they provide esthetic, ecologic, educational, historical, recreational, economic and scientific value to the nation. *
• HB 1576 states that protection of 62 threatened and endangered species will be removed unless the species are re-designated within two years of the bill being passed. Re-evaluating listing status within two years is virtually impossible. (Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission)
• This bill could allow virtually anyone to pinpoint the precise locations where a rare species is found, thereby facilitating exploitation for any number of harmful purposes. (PA Fish and Boat Commission)
• Bureaucratic delay in reviewing and designating wild trout streams could result in a loss of opportunity for Pennsylvania anglers, and a loss of economic benefit to businesses supported by fly fishing. (Trout Unlimited)
• Passage of this bill may cause the loss of $27 million dollars annually of federal funding. (Trout Unlimited)
This bill is clearly a concession to the coal and gas industries. If passed in its present form, HB 1576 it will make it faster and cheaper for companies to acquire land for mining and drilling. At the same time, it will make it more difficult, time-consuming and expensive (for taxpayers!) to conserve the habitats of PA’s endangered and threatened plants and animals.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Game Commission, and the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources are the experts on conservation and they have been doing an excellent job under the existing legislation. The directors of the LCWA do not support HB 1576. If the experts do not approve the final draft of Endangered Species Coordination Act, then our elected representatives and senators should not support it either.
* George Jugovic, Jr., chief counsel of the Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture). In addition to a degree in environmental resource management and a degree in law, he is a former regional chief from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and has a wealth of experience as a courtroom litigator. He also taught wildlife law at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law for several years.
If you want more info, the PennFuture website is a good place to look.
Dr. Carol J. Kafer is associate professor of biology on the Natural Sciences Faculty of Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The preceding article was reprinted with permission of the author.