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The deceptively named "Endangered Species Coordination Act" (House Bill 1576 and its Senate companion, SB 1047) would gut the ability of our state resource agencies to list and protect rare plants and animals; essentially only those listed by the federal government would be covered.

Pennsylvania author and naturalist Scott Weidensaul shared the following message on a birding listserv. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if we passed it on, as well.

I trust by now everyone on this list is aware of the significant attack being launched on rare species in Pennsylvania. The deceptively named "Endangered Species Coordination Act" (House Bill 1576 and its Senate companion, SB 1047) would gut the ability of our state resource agencies to list and protect rare plants and animals; essentially only those listed by the federal government would be covered.

A hearing held in Schuylkill County on Monday showed clearly how poorly the bill's own sponsors understand the issues, since virtually all of the examples they raised of allegedly onerous regulations involved federally listed species like Indiana bats, not those like great egrets, American bitterns and upland sandpipers that are listed only by the state, and and which already receive a fairly limited degree of protection because of this.

Among other problems, the bill would make protection of high-quality trout streams far more difficult, and allow lawmakers — not scientists and resource experts — to invalidate protection for rare plants and animals. It shifts the burden for determining whether rare species will be impacted by projects from the developers to the state, and requires — but does not define — "acceptable data" to back up any action. Care to guess who will determine what constitutes "acceptable" data? It won't be the wildlife professionals.

As if we needed more reasons to opposes these bills, their passage would likely mean the loss in up to $27 million in federal wildlife restoration funds, representing up to a third the budgets of the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission:

"Pennsylvania could lose $27 million over bills to amend endangered species laws" (The Morning Call)

If you're interested in viewing the hearing for yourself, the video is at: http://livestre.am/4AP00 [Also embedded below.]

This bill is not a joke — with 60 cosponsors, HB 1576 is very likely to win passage, and there's little doubt the governor would sign it.

It's critical every birder in the state takes a moment to contact their state representative and senator, and express in the strongest possible terms their opposition to this travesty of a bill. It is especially important if your rep or senator is a cosponsor. (Mine is, and he got an earful from me about it). The House cosponsors are:

PYLE, GERGELY, MALONEY, MILLARD, MULLERY, KAUFFMAN, D. COSTA, BLOOM, HELM, HARHAI, RAPP, GOODMAN, CUTLER, GIBBONS, AUMENT, MARSHALL, C. HARRIS, REED, PICKETT, MATZIE, HEFFLEY, EVERETT, MASSER, M. K. KELLER, SWANGER, KNOWLES, METCALFE, DUNBAR, SONNEY, GROVE, KRIEGER, REESE, STEVENSON, NEUMAN, SANKEY, CAUSER, SACCONE, ROCK, GODSHALL, TOBASH, MURT, R. BROWN, SCHLEGEL CULVER, P. COSTA, DAVIS, BURNS, P. DALEY, ENGLISH, TALLMAN, BAKER, BARRAR, CHRISTIANA, ELLIS, EVANKOVICH, KORTZ, JAMES, KULA, MAJOR, METZGAR, MOUL, MUSTIO, OBERLANDER, TOOHIL, SNYDER, PASHINSKI, READSHAW, ROAE, SAYLOR

There are fewer Senate co-sponsors:

SCARNATI, WAUGH, GORDNER, ERICKSON, HUTCHINSON, WHITE, RAFFERTY, MENSCH, BRUBAKER, KASUNIC, FONTANA, BREWSTER, TARTAGLIONE, YUDICHAK AND HUGHES

Do this before you pick up your binoculars this weekend. You owe it to the birds.

Scott Weidensaul
Schuylkill Haven, PA

Game Commission biologists are seeking assistance from residents in a regional monitoring effort to collect bat maternity colony data this summer. This monitoring is especially important due to the mortalities in bat populations throughout the northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania, being caused by White-Nose Syndrome.

Read the Game Commission press release (via PA Environment Digest). Here's a snippet:

Game Commission biologists are seeking assistance from residents in a regional monitoring effort to collect bat maternity colony data this summer. This monitoring is especially important due to the mortalities in bat populations throughout the northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania, being caused by White-Nose Syndrome.

"WNS primarily kills during the winter, but the true impact of WNS on bat populations cannot be determined using estimates from winter hibernacula alone," said Calvin Butchkoski, Game Commission wildlife biologist. "Pennsylvanians can help us more fully gauge the impact of WNS on the landscape by hosting a bat count this summer. We are especially urging people who have ever conducted a bat count for the Game Commission in the past to redo a count this year."

To obtain applications and information on how to participate, visit the Game Commission's Appalachian Bat Count webpage. Forms on the website guide interested participants through the steps of timing, conducting a survey and submitting their findings to the Game Commission. Scout groups, 4-H clubs, local environmental organizations, and individual homeowners can all participate in this important effort.

Around the world, amphibian populations are in decline, and scientists have not been able to figure out why. Now a study of leopard frogs in Pennsylvania has identified a possible culprit, and the ramifications are troubling, according to a Penn State ecologist.

From Penn State News, "Study suggests link between agricultural chemicals and frog decline":

Around the world, amphibian populations are in decline, and scientists have not been able to figure out why. Now a study of leopard frogs in Pennsylvania has identified a possible culprit, and the ramifications are troubling, according to a Penn State ecologist.

Research conducted primarily at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs in the summer of 2007 — described in a recently published article in the journal Nature — suggests that chemical pollution can increase often-deadly trematode (parasitic flatworm) infections in a declining amphibian species.

"Like canaries used to gauge the safety of air in coal mines, amphibians are thought to be the 'canaries' in our freshwater environments, and reductions in their health can warn that subsequent species declines might be in store," says Hunter Carrick, associate professor of aquatic ecology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, who was one of the lead investigators in the study.