It’s environmentalists vs. industry as Pa. considers revising endangered species rules

     A female peregrine falcon flies over the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in this May, 2011 photo. Officers from the Pennsylvania Game Commission gathered the falcon's chicks to give them a check up, apply bands to their legs, and then return them to the nest, which is located on the 40th floor of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. The peregrine falcon is listed on Pennsylvania endangered species, and the program monitoring the birds nesting has been in effect since 2002. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo, file)

    A female peregrine falcon flies over the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in this May, 2011 photo. Officers from the Pennsylvania Game Commission gathered the falcon's chicks to give them a check up, apply bands to their legs, and then return them to the nest, which is located on the 40th floor of the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning. The peregrine falcon is listed on Pennsylvania endangered species, and the program monitoring the birds nesting has been in effect since 2002. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo, file)

    Environmentalists are standing firmly against the prospect of adding more oversight to the way endangered species are designated in Pennsylvania.

    The proposal is scheduled for a House committee vote next week.

    It would require that the two independent agencies charged with designating endangered species get approval from a state review board, as well as panels made up of state lawmakers.

    That would gut Pennsylvania’s process for protecting wildlife, said Jeff Schmidt of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club.

    “What’s at stake here are the species, not simply some kind of inside-the-Beltway, arcane process that has no impact on the real world,” Schmidt said. “It will have a huge impact on rare, threatened, and endangered species going forward in time.”

    But developers, including the natural gas industry, support the proposal. Under the current system, industries that want to build on or disturb land that hosts an endangered species must go to the appropriate state agency for permission.

    Too often such permits only come after the agencies get something they want from the applicant — in one instance, a commissioned wildlife study, according to supporters of the measure..

    They also say permit rulings take too long, and complain that there’s no disclosure of the research serving as the basis for decisions to approve or reject permits.

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