A bill passed by the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee on Wednesday would allow for an independent review commission, not the state Fish and Boat Commission, to determine which trout streams should be designated as wild trout streams, a move opposed by Trout Unlimited and anglers throughout the commonwealth.
House Bill 1576, although amended over the last five weeks, still eliminates the independence of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat and Game Commission by subjecting its decisions to designate wild trout streams, or to list threatened or endangered species, to review by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission and legislative committees.
“This bill threatens the very mission of Trout Unlimited to protect, restore and conserve America’s native and wild trout and salmon populations by proposing a significant change in the process by which wild trout streams are listed in Pennsylvania,” said Brian Wagner, president of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. “I see no value in changing the current process of listing wild trout streams. The existing system is based upon objective technical standards, that are rigorous and transparent and it provides an opportunity for public input.”
“This process would add extra layers of bureaucracy and is clearly intended to slow down, or even halt, the process of listing wild trout streams and, as a consequence, eliminate or reduce protections for trout resources in the commonwealth,” said Katy Dunlap, TU’s eastern water project director. “This bill leaves streams where wild trout are present without the protection they deserve.”
Additionally, the law could jeopardize over $25 million in federal funding received by the commonwealth by usurping the authority of the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission to ensure the conservation of wildlife. In order for a state agency to receive funding under the federal Wildlife Restoration Act and Sportfishing Restoration Act, the agency must have the final say on how fish and wildlife are protected.
The bill, as passed, makes no provision for funding the agencies in the absence of that federal money and, in fact, prohibits the agencies from using its current revenue streams – namely license fees from hunters and anglers – to fulfill the Act’s requirements.