“Tseet, tseet, tseet”! A Blackpoll Warbler called his high-pitched song from the treetops above the Four Mills Barn Preserve this May during the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association’s Birdathon. The 5-inch bird, heavily streaked in black and white, rapidly flew from branch to branch in search of food. This long range flyer migrates between the Caribbean and the northern reaches of United States. Migrating and nesting warblers benefit Pennsylvania forests by eating large quantities of budworms and insect pests.
The high elevation spruce forests where the Blackpoll Warbler nests are in very limited supply in Pennsylvania and are confined to a few locations in the Poconos and the Allegheny National Forest. Although the global population of the Blackpoll Warbler is relatively steady, the Pennsylvania population is very low. Currently the Blackpoll Warbler is protected as an endangered species in Pennsylvania by the Game Commission, but possibly not for long if the Pennsylvania Legislature has its way.
The harmless sounding Endangered Species Coordination Act, Bill 1576 that is now floating through the General Assembly, would effectively eliminate the protection provided by the State of Pennsylvania for the Blackpoll Warbler and dozens of other species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians.
The species that are now listed in the Endangered and Threatened Species List of the State of Pennsylvania are protected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. These agencies have a long history of making sound policy regarding the listing and protection of endangered and threatened species based on science and peer reviewed studies. Under the proposed legislation, they would no longer be able to manage the habitat, monitor the populations of listed species, or educate the public regarding the state of our disappearing fauna.
The proposed bill would require review of decisions made by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission by separate committees of the Senate and General Assembly, where political interference could easily block future listings. In a sweeping cut to endangered species protection, the bill requires the agencies to submit each and every species currently listed for re-designation within two years of the passage of this law.
The Endangered Species Coordination Act would force the transfer of all data collection and management away from experienced and highly qualified state agencies to other bureaucracies that are ill equipped to perform these duties. It would preclude the state government from using the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI) effectively, thereby eviscerating one of the best environmental review systems in the United States.
To add insult to injury, the proposed law would eliminate the exemption under the Right to Know Law that protects the locations of listed species. This would allow the precise locations of endangered species to be obtained by anyone who intends to destroy the wildlife where it was previously protected. The fate of disappearing species would be at the mercy of development interests that much would prefer to conduct their businesses without regard to preserving our biodiversity. To stifle the role of the public, citizens that obtain any information from public agencies about endangered species could be slapped with fines that can cost you up to $5000 if the information is shared with others!
Please contact your legislator and say that you support the Pennsylvania Endangered and Threatened Species Program and the work of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to effectively manage and protect our disappearing wildlife. Let your representative know that you want future generations to enjoy the wildlife that is our natural heritage. Please help keep the Blackpoll Warbler singing “tseet, tseet, tseet” from the treetops along the Wissahickon Creek.