By Natasha Lindstrom
Conservation and sportsmen groups are trying to block an industry-backed bill to change the way Pennsylvania identifies endangered species from making it to a vote on the House floor.
A handful of lawmakers joined environmentalists and outdoor sports enthusiasts at a Harrisburg press conference Thursday blasting House Bill 1576, which critics say would threaten the state’s most vulnerable animals, fish and plants in an attempt to clear the way for big oil, coal and gas companies. They are hoping to stop the legislation from advancing out of a House committee on Wednesday.
Montgomery County State Rep. Steve McCarter, D-154, Glenside, argued the bill is a “direct threat” to the state’s ecosystem and doesn’t address the challenges facing developers and landowners in an effective way.
“This bill endangers the delicate balance of thousands of years of natural heritage that make up Pennsylvania’s forests, farm land, trout streams and homes of our native species,” McCarter said. “Industries that rely on our natural resources should be fighting both tooth and nail against this bill instead of championing it.”
HB 1576, deemed the Endangered Species Coordination Act, would change the way animals get added to the state’s threatened or endangered species lists and the way wild trout waters get designated by putting a new oversight body in charge. Decisions by the state Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission would now be subject to approval by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, along with review by standing legislative committees.
The bill’s author, Armstrong County Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-60, Ford City, said the goal is to bring more transparency and appeal options to an unchecked regulatory process that’s been stifling economic development and penalizing landowners. Pyle said he wants to “level the playing field” by requiring the Game and Fish and Boat commissions to undergo the same independent review as the majority of state agencies. More....