Column | Legislation a detriment to state waterways

February 11, 2014 

Land developers, chamber of commerce members and coal and gas industry representatives have said wild trout streams are a deterrent to development.

I am a pro-growth conservative and an active conservationist and find this alarming.

Why does Pennsylvania need the Endangered Species Coordination Act (SB 1047 and HB 1576)?

I think it’s because politicians do not believe or understand the present data or protocols.

Yet they have heard testimony from the Fish and Boat and Game commissions at multiple levels and have been provided ample documentation to understand — if they want to.

State Sen. Jake Corman seemed to imply in his questioning that the commissions’ review process might not always be independent and thus he wants to add an additional layer of bureaucratic oversight that he says would be more independent. That is laughable.

What part of the data on wild trout streams do they not trust? What about the current data and procedures is not transparent enough? It is easy to find the state’s streams and their classifications online (http://fishandboat.com/waters_trout), and the 64-page “Strategic Plan for Management of Trout Fisheries in Pennsylvania 2010-2014” is very detailed.

“Sampling Procedures for Unassessed Streams in Pennsylvania 6-18-2011” also is easily accessed. This 26-page document explains the protocols for assessing streams and includes biologist reports and data for each classified stream.

Some legislators seem think the process of assessing wild trout streams is arbitrary and not scientific. Haven’t they read the protocol?

I was told by one legislator that the 25,000 miles of wild trout streams is the real deterrent to development. However, only 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of streams are classified as wild trout streams.

This was laid out in Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway’s testimony to the committees, but I suspect few read, listened or cared.

This is not about not being informed or about transparency or understanding. That is not the point with the supporters of these bills. The point is to eliminate endangered species, Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory searches and classified wild trout streams from consideration in the permitting process.

The Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission are financed through license fees, tax on hunting and fishing equipment and donations. So if you enjoy hiking, biking or bird watching in state game lands or hiking the canyon, thank a hunter or angler and be advised that if these bills pass into law there is the potential loss of federal funding from the excise tax source.

It seems politicians want to replace science with legislative oversight in the name of expedience. Scary. Tell your representatives you do not support these bills.

Joe Boston is an active member of Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups. He lives in State College.

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