A contentious proposal to change the way threatened and endangered species are designated in Pennsylvania cleared a House committee today.
The bill would give a five-person regulatory review panel and legislators control over whether to list species the state’s game and fish commissions determine are threatened or endangered. The proposal was reported out of the House Game and Fisheries Committee by a 16-8 vote.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania has reported, the proposal has the backing of the natural gas industry and developers who say the bill would add transparency and consistency to the designation process. It is opposed by the fish and wildlife agencies and conservationists who say it would open scientific decisions to political influence.
The vote today brought both sides to the committee meeting, according to witf:
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Representative Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, said after the committee hearing on Wednesday that conservationists shouldn’t get carte blanche if the result is stifled industry.
“If you go back and look at the Game Commission and Fish and Boat’s charter,” said Pyle, referring to the two commissions that now control threatened and endangered species designations, “they’re not allowed to make any decisions based on economic reasons. But I think in today’s economy, and with jobless figures the way they are, it has to be considered. There’s a balance to everything.”
“This is what the industries want,” said Laura Jackson, a conservationist from Bedford County. “They want the authority removed from the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission and they want it now to be under political control.” Jackson attended the committee meeting with about 15 other activists opposed to the legislation.
The measure was amended in committee to address concerns that more than $27 million in federal funds might be lost because the state’s conservation agencies would no longer have sole authority over their programs.