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House bill could be a fatal blow to endangered species

What’s the real reason behind House Bill 1576?


The bill, which was introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Armstrong/Indiana) essentially revamps the process in which plant and animal species are listed as threatened or endangered, and it also throws all the work out the window for those species that are already listed. Even the process used to designate waterways as wild trout streams would also be overhauled.

Even better, all 73 species currently listed as threatened or endangered in the state – such as the Indiana bat, Northern flying squirrel, peregrine falcon and the osprey, would have to be re-evaluated not by the Pennsylvania Game Commission of Fish and Boat Commission, but by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which would determine if the listings are accurate and if the species are truly deserving of such a designation.

If the bill is passed, the agencies would have two years to prove that the Indiana bat, for example, is truly endangered. If they don’t produce “acceptable data” that particular species can be removed from the list.

The politicians supporting the bill have been throwing out “feel good” terms to back the legislation. Pyle stated that the legislators are “simply asking for sufficient burden of proof” that a species is in fact threatened of endangered.

State Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said the bill simply asks the state agencies “to provide evidence that backs up their decision.”

Burden of proof and evidence? That may be a little hard to do considering we’re talking about species that are endangered, meaning they are few and far between.

Hard to find.



Is that enough proof?

While some politicians contend that the bill would bring transparency to the process that agencies use to designate a species or classify a wild trout stream, that’s just sugar-coating the bitter truth driving the legislation.

During a public hearing late last month on the bill, state Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) made a few comments that hint at the real reason behind the bill. In my opinion, the bill is all about making it easier for business, industry and land developers to proceed with their projects at the expense of the state’s threatened and endangered species.

Here’s what Causer had to say at the hearing: “Listing species as endangered places severe hardship on businesses. We can’t run jobs and businesses out of the state just because species are threatened with extinction.”

I don’t believe the endangered species designation is meant to run any business out of the state. It’s designed to help businesses and industries locate their projects in a responsible manner that won’t drive an endangered species to extinction.

Causer also mentioned the “hardship” that the endangered designation places on businesses.

What about the the hardship that was placed on dozens of species for decades that drove them to the verge of extinction? What about the irresponsible land use, pollution and development that created those hardships in the first place?

The PGC and PFBC have done a commendable job of studying, monitoring and protecting our threatened and endangered species to prevent any more from becoming extinct, like the passenger pigeon. At the same time, industry, at least in our area, doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.

Take a drive through Noxen and gaze up at the towering wind turbines lining the mountain tops if you need proof.

Or go a little further north and look at the drilling rigs and gas well pads dotting the landscape of Wyoming and Bradford counties.

And while you’re counting turbines and well pads, pay attention to how many Indiana bats, flying squirrels and peregrine falcons you see, and then decide where the real “hardship” lies.