Legislation that has been working its way through state and federal legislatures lately is cause for great concern among people who are interested in protecting wildlife.
Elected officials made the conservation movement possible by enacting laws.
In the minds of the public in general, conservation of the natural world still is highly desirable. We see this in the debates over clean energy.
However, sneaking through the legislatures are new laws that do not have the best interests of wildlife and nature in general at heart.
Pennsylvania was dubbed the Keystone State many years ago because our geographic position connects and holds together the northern states and the southern states. That was more political than geographic in significance. Now, we are a keystone in the course of the conservation movement.
Legislation that would give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the power to place a bounty on coyotes is a good example. Since it does not demand bounties on coyotes, this should not be a back-breaker for conservation.
It is the intention of the legislation that is worrisome. It is an example of the legislature trying to manage wildlife.
What could they be thinking?
Have the representatives who sponsored this legislation and those who voted in favor of it done no research into bounties on coyotes?
Coyotes are a nuisance to farmers and ranchers because they can – and do – kill livestock.
There is no question that coyotes cost farmers and ranchers money, although whether or not the amount of money per individual farm or ranch is high might be debatable. At one time in the past, states paid bounties on killing coyotes, with the intention of either eliminating or minimizing the species.
Today, no states are paying bounties on coyotes. The reason is that the system of paying those bounties does not do what it was intended to do.
Coyotes are very clever creatures; they are difficult to hunt or trap. But this is not the real problem. The root of the problem is that as coyotes are killed, through some mystery of nature they manage to increase the size of their litters.
Hunting and trapping coyotes is wise because it teaches the creatures fear of man. Without this fear, coyotes could be a much greater problem. They are well-capable of killing people. Not just children, either, since a pack of coyotes could kill a full-grown man, just as domesticated dogs sometimes do.
This has been the case with black bears. Here in Pennsylvania and in most states where they are hunted, there have been few cases of black bears killing or attacking people, although just this year a Pennsylvania bear attacked a teenage girl who was hunting deer.
But, go north into territory where there are very few people, and where bears might never even see a person, and it’s different. This is where black bears have shown themselves to be dangerous to people. They have not learned to fear people.
I might be misusing the word “learn,” but the point is adequately made.
Delving deeper into conservation, H.B. 1576, which sailed through the House Game and Fisheries Committee and is currently tabled, would place the designation of species as threatened or endangered and designation of wild trout streams under the power of an Independent Regulatory Review Committee, and standing committees of the State House of Representatives and Senate with jurisdiction over the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission.
When has adding more bureaucratic red tape ever benefitted anything of general public interest?
The Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission have done a wonderful job in dealing with threatened and endangered species, and designating wild trout streams.
An issue that has been debated nationally is the killing of eagles, particularly bald eagles, one of our national symbols, by wind power generators.
Bald eagles were removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.
However, they are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may issue permits for the incidental take of eagles.
A proposed wind farm in Minnesota applied for a permit. Before it could be granted, the project was abandoned, mainly because of protests and the eagle-death issue.
This demonstrates that citizens can still win battles against things they consider detrimental to wildlife and the environment.
But if the state legislature succeeds in taking authority for wildlife protection away from the designated state wildlife agencies, it could signal a turn-around in conservation.
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