Pennsylvania Brook Trout Stream (photo: Chad Shmukler)
Pennsylvania Brook Trout Stream (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Early this year, we published a detailed piece on a bill proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers which is deceptively titled the Endangered Species Act. The bill, HB 1576, has been widely outed as a poorly veiled attempt to neuter the ability of state agencies to put in place vital wild trout and endangered species protections that ultimately present road blocks to development by the natural gas industry and other corporate interests throughout the state. The bill met success late last year when it passed through the House Game & Fisheries committee in November, qualifying the bill to move to forward in the legislative process. This week, sportsmen's and environmental groups that have worked to put a stop to the bill's progress received some relief when the sponsors of the bill failed to receive the necessary support to bring it to a vote on the House floor.

The bill, which was originally proposed last year by Republican representative Jeff Pyle, has received considerable support from House conservatives who have defended the bill with claims that the bill's provisions would reduce government bureaucracy and inefficiency. Even cursory analysis of the bill's contents have revealed these claims to be unfounded, and groups which have recognized the threat the act would pose to Pennsylvania's rich natural resources have spent countless hours mobilizing support from sportsmen and other individuals that oppose its provisions.

According to information released by PennFuture, "legislative leaders started counting the votes for and against HB 1576. House Republican leaders were surely stunned to discover that less than half of their 101 members were willing to vote yes this week." Relatively weak support was expected from Democratic representatives, but opponents feared the majority conservative party would offer strong support for the bill, allowing it to come to a vote. The fact that less than half the Republican members in the house felt comfortable supporting the bill is being touted as a testament to the strong response and pressure placed on lawmakers by sportsmen across the state who have taken the time to make their opposition heard via phone calls, emails, social media and the like.

Trout Unlimited's Eastern Water Project director Katy Dunlap noted, "Trout Unlimited is pleased that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives did not vote on House Bill 1576 this week, because it shows that Representatives are listening to the intense opposition of their constituents." Dunlap continued with a warning that the fight to stop HB 1576 remains an active one. "That being said, the bill is still very much alive, as long as it remains on the House calendar for consideration. It is imperative that sportsmen and women continue to raise their voices, and contact their Representatives, to let them know that this bill is bad for Pennsylvania’s sportsmen and for its fish and wildlife."

The bill will remain on the calendar for consideration through the end of the 2014 legislative session, which doesn't close until December 31, and can be brought to a vote again as early as next week.