A proposal to add regulatory oversight to the commissions designating endangered species and protected wild trout streams in Pennsylvania has passed out of a key state House committee.
It would give a review board of political appointees final approval over protections for certain species and streams.
Supporters, including natural gas companies and home builders, say it would provide a check and balance to the state’s independent commissions now in charge of the process.
But it adds politics to a process of species conservation that now is based on science, said Laura Jackson, a conservationist who attended the hearing with about 15 other activists opposed to the plan.
“This is what the industries want,” she said. “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.”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Representative Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, says conservationists shouldn’t get carte blanche if the result is stifled industry, countered state Rep. Jeff Pyle, the bill’s sponsor.
“If you go back and look at the Game Commission and Fish and Boat [Commission]’s charter, 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,” said Pyle, R-Armstrong. “There’s a balance to everything.”
Supporters also say an amendment to the measure will keep Pennsylvania from losing aboout $27 million federal funding.
That money is in jeopardy because the legislation would remove the commonwealth’s conservation programs from being the sole authority over the endangered species designation process.
Jackson says whether federal funding is lost “remains to be seen.”
The measure will now go top the full House for a vote.