By Jim Hook
Four legislators representing all parts of Franklin County have signed onto legislation that would change how Pennsylvania lists its endangered species. Proponents say the Endangered Species Coordination Act will provide transparency and accountability for the regulations. Opponents say it will add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
The House bill (HB 1576) will provide better protection for threatened and endangered species while creating a proper balance between economic growth and environmental protection, according to one of its 68 sponsors, Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Chambersburg.
Industries and developers would not be required to look for endangered species unless the plants or animals were found previously in the area that is to be disturbed. The onus would fall on the state agencies to catalog the areas where Pennsylvania's endangered species are located.
"While this provision may expedite a permit, it violates the common sense warning that we actually look before we leap," said Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club. The bill also does not authorize funds for the "robust database."
He and other opponents of the bill say it will politicize and strip protections from plants and animals threatened with extinction in Pennsylvania. A majority of the endangered species on the state's list would be removed, according to John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. It would be "virtually impossible" for the Fish and Boat Commission in two years to review all 62 species it has listed as threatened or endangered.
The bill requires justification for all Pennsylvania listings within two years. Those with incomplete reviews would be dropped.
"We will only be left with the federal list," Arway said. More....