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Anti-conservation lawmakers are taking aim at Pennsylvania's endangered and threatened species. Pennsylvania HB 1576 and SB 1047 would diminish the Pennsylvania Game Commission's and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's ability to protect endangered and threatened species in our state.

The Altoona Mirror has just published a letter from JVAS Conservation Chair Stan Kotala which expresses the view of the whole JVAS board:

Anti-conservation lawmakers are taking aim at Pennsylvania's endangered and threatened species.

Pennsylvania HB 1576 and SB 1047 would diminish the Pennsylvania Game Commission's and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's ability to protect endangered and threatened species in our state.

The commonwealth has a long and proud tradition of independent fish and game agencies. Politicians shouldn't mess with it.

These bills would send the Commission's endangered and threatened species lists to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC), an agency dominated by the legislature, for additional scrutiny.

The IRRC does not have scientific expertise or standards to evaluate species listing proposals. Proponents of the bill claim that this is just like asking for a second opinion on a medical diagnosis. That claim is absurd. Second opinions on a diagnosis are rendered by another physician, not by political appointees with no science background.

These agencies' biologists are better judges of the threats to wildlife than political appointees would be. The agencies make decisions regarding proposals for protecting rare, threatened, or endangered species in an open, transparent manner.

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

These federal funds would be lost because managing threatened and endangered species in the fashion proposed by this bill would demonstrate our state's incompetence in wildlife management.

In addition, these bills could encourage more federal involvement in species protection. One of the criteria utilized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in determining whether to pursue listing of a species is the sufficiency of state resource protection laws. By curtailing the authority of the Commissions, this proposed legislation could prompt a more active federal role in species protection.

Juniata Valley Audubon asks that conservationists oppose Pennsylvania HB 1576 and SB 1047.

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The final JVAS Butterfly Garden workday of 2013 will take place this Saturday, September 7 from 9am till 10am at our beautiful garden adjacent to the Environmental Education Center at Canoe Creek State Park.
monarch butterflies on New York asters
monarch butterflies on New York asters

The final JVAS Butterfly Garden workday of 2013 will take place this Saturday, September 7 from 9am till 10am at our beautiful garden adjacent to the Environmental Education Center at Canoe Creek State Park.

We are in need of New England asters and New York asters. If you can bring some to plant in the garden on Saturday, then that would be great. Bring gloves for weeding.

—Stan and Alice Kotala
JVAS Butterfly Garden coordinators

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

Check out this heart-warming story of wildlife rehabilitation on Froggy 98's website: "Sparky Returns Home to the Swamp." The author did exactly the right thing by calling her local WCO, and the rehabilitor, Centre Wildlife Care, is the best in our area.

From the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry's Forest Resources Planning and Information Team:

The Bureau of Forestry is beginning the planning process to revise the State Forest Resource Management Plan (SFRMP).  The SFRMP is a broad, state-wide plan used to guide the Bureau of Forestry’s management of state forest resources.

Public participation is an integral part of state forest management.  As part of the SFRMP revision, we developed a survey to gather public input that can be incorporated into the planning process. Additional opportunities for public input through 2014 will include written comment and public meetings. Hearing from the public gives us insights into the needs and concerns of citizens and stakeholders, so we can better adapt our management strategies.

As a valued state forest stakeholder or user, we are interested in your survey response.  The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete.  Please use the following link to access the survey on the Rothrock State Forest webpage. You will find a link to the survey under the Advisories section of the webpage. The survey will be available online through October 31, 2013.

www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/stateforests/rothrock

Please feel free to share this link with other state forest stakeholders or users that you may know.

One suggested short- and long-term priority for forest planners: planting western hemlock or native red spruce to replace the eastern hemlocks killed by the hemlock wooly adelgid, to preserve cold-water habitat and many other essential wildlife values.

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.

Our annual hike in memory of Terry Wentz took place on May 11 at Canoe Creek State Park, where Terry was Superintendent for many years. The yellow lady's-slipper orchids and flowering dogwood trees were at their height of bloom.

Our annual hike in memory of Terry Wentz took place on May 11 at Canoe Creek State Park, where Terry was Superintendent for many years. The yellow lady's-slipper orchids and flowering dogwood trees were at their height of bloom.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation is pleased to announce the launch of the Pennsylvania Amphibian & Reptile Survey (abbreviated as PARS), a new amphibian and reptile atlas created through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. This ten-year project (2013-2022) is calling on Pennsylvania’s naturalists, amateur and professional herpetologists, and nature enthusiasts in general, to join the increasing ranks of citizen scientists collecting important observations for science and resource agencies.

From Pennsylvania Herp Identification:

The Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation is pleased to announce the launch of the Pennsylvania Amphibian & Reptile Survey (abbreviated as PARS), a new amphibian and reptile atlas created through a partnership with the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. This ten-year project (2013-2022) is calling on Pennsylvania’s naturalists, amateur and professional herpetologists, and nature enthusiasts in general, to join the increasing ranks of citizen scientists collecting important observations for science and resource agencies. The amphibians and reptiles of Pennsylvania need your help.

Read the rest.

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.