The Endangered Species Coordination Act would require the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to submit proposed designations to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). IRRC already reviews regulations from every other state agency, including endangered species designations made by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and most stream designations made by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“Our ultimate goal with this legislation is to bring about the kind of consistency and transparency needed to better facilitate the co-existence of a healthy environment and a healthy economy,” Causer said. “IRRC has an established process for public comment and review of virtually every other state regulation that impacts our citizens. It only makes sense for the commissions to go through the same process.”
The bill also would require all information about threatened and endangered species, and others of special concern, to be placed into a centralized database and would require efficient and timely access to that information to authorized persons involved in permitted projects that may be affected by those species.
“In many cases, our industries and even local governments are embarking on projects without all of the information they need to make sound financial decisions, and that can cost us jobs and increase the burden on taxpayers,” Causer said. “If people have access to solid information from the start, they can determine if they want to continue with a project or move it elsewhere. There is no good reason to keep this information from the people who need it.”
As a sportsman himself, Causer said he recognizes the importance of protecting streams and wildlife, and he believes requiring the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission to go through the IRRC process for endangered species and trout stream designations will have no detrimental effect on their efforts.
“DCNR and DEP have been making similar designations through IRRC for decades,” Causer said. “As long as the commissions have sound science to show the need for designations – and I have no doubt they do – going through IRRC will not hinder their ability to do their jobs.”
As a result of two public hearings held on the bill over the summer, the committee adopted a comprehensive amendment that addressed virtually every concern raised during those hearings. Among the changes included in the amendment are:
Removing the requirement for the agencies to re-designate all currently listed species within a two-year time frame.
Expanding the proposed centralized database to include “other designated species” that are of special concern or rare species other than threatened or endangered species.
Ensuring access to information in the database is made available only to authorized persons and increases the civil penalties for unlawful use of sensitive database information.
Prohibiting the transfer of licensing dollars or federal funds for implementation of the act to further ensure there is no loss of federal funds as a result of the change.
Placing the requirement to do field surveys back on the permit applicant affecting the land and specifies that if field surveys are required, the state agency with jurisdictional authority for the protection of the species must within 30 days of receiving the survey results provide either clearance for the project, or detailed avoidance measures, detailed minimization measures or detailed mitigation measures to the permit applicant.
Clarifying that the requirement of the commissions to adhere to independent regulatory review does not apply to actions such as hunting seasons and bag limits or fishing seasons and creel limits.
House Bill 1576 passed the committee by a vote of 16-8.
The committee also approved the following bills today:
House Bill 1534, sponsored by Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne), which authorizes the Pennsylvania Game Commission to create a coyote control incentive program that would offer properly licensed hunters and furtakers an incentive of $25 for every coyote lawfully harvested.
Senate Bill 763, sponsored by Sen. Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette/Somerset/Washington/Westmoreland), which removes the required keeping and inspection of rosters of big game hunting parties by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Senate Bill 895, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams/Franklin/York), which reduces the length of each term for members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Board of Commissioners from eight years to four years, while allowing for multiple terms of continued service. This bill is similar to House Bill 828, sponsored by Causer, which previously passed the committee.