Survival of the fittest
The state House Games and Fisheries Committee has managed to approve a bill that not only amends the state Endangered Species Act to endanger wildlife, but to endanger governance in the public interest.
Under the bill, final determination of whether a species is endangered will be transferred from professional biologists for state fish and game agencies to the politically appointed Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Designations would shift from the realm of science to the realm of politics, from the realm of the public interest in species protection to narrow interests of developers, particularly the gas industry, that exert enormous influence over politicians.
State Rep. Keith Gillespie, a York Republican and a hunter who is a member of the House committee, voted against the bill.
It is "extremely dangerous," he said, to move away from a science-based approach to wildlife management.
Also telling was an example offered by Republican Rep. Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, a bill sponsor, who feared that a potential endangerment listing of bat populations that have been devastated by white-nose syndrome disease, might adversely affect some development.
Bats, however, are crucial to many other aspects of life statewide, including the state's largest industry, agriculture.
The full House and Senate should leave endangerment decisions in the hands of biologists.