August 2, 2013
Two state agencies are concerned that proposed legislation would strip their authority to decide on which species are labeled endangered in Pennsylvania.
The measure would make the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission run their decisions through certain legislative committees and a state regulatory review agency.
A Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.
His spokesman, Drew Crompton, says some industries believe the “goal posts were continuously moved” as far as what animals were on the endangered species lists, which are now controlled by the two independent state commissions.
"We’re not by any means trying to one, thwart their power, two, second-guess prior decisions," says Crompton.
"What this is about is going forward, and an attempt to try to make sure that we have a publicized list of endangered species by region."
There are two problems with that statement.
One, a Game Commission employee says there are no regional lists, and the endangered species lists are available on state websites. Two, the bill in question doesn’t make information public–it allows the data to be obtained on request, and then it can be shared with others only with the state’s permission.
The Game Commission controls what mammals and birds are listed as endangered species. Dan Brauning, Wildlife Diversity Chief, says the whole process takes about a year, from petition to approval.
"The list is not changed very often," says Brauning. "We look at a lot of data to develop these lists so, it’s a slow process."
Fish and Boat Commission director John Arway says the bill would strip his commission of its authority to list endangered species. He says certain industries have long wanted to be able to regionalize endangered species.
"Poachers would like to know, because some of these species have a black market value, and secondly, we don’t want other people making decisions about species under our jurisdiction," says Arway.
For example, he says, some developers want to know where endangered species are so they can plant their facilities elsewhere.
But Arway says developers often aren’t considering the size of an animal’s habitat.That’s why he says the state’s open records law denies access to endangered species’ particular location.
Endangered species lists are available on state websites, but certain industries have long wanted more exact information about the animals’ whereabouts.
The bill in question doesn’t make that information public.
Instead, it allows the data to be obtained on request, and then it can be shared with others only with the state’s permission.
The new proposal would force the two now-independent commissions in charge of listing endangered species under the purview of a regulatory review agency and limit the dissemination of information about endangered species’ location.