HARRISBURG - Following significant public comment, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe Thursday announced that the agency will not be moving forward to draft regulatory changes to place three species of bats on the Commonwealth's endangered species list. While some comments supported listing bats, Roe said more discussion, research and coordination need to be done before the agency takes such action.
"The Game Commission has sought to be more transparent and open about ideas that may be presented to our independent Board of Game Commissioners for consideration," Roe said. "To that end, we recently solicited public comment through an announcement in the Pennsylvania Bulletin that we were considering actions to protect three species of bats being impacted by white-nose syndrome (WNS).
"We accepted and tabulated public comments far beyond the 30-day window and, based on that public comment, have decided that we will not be drafting any proposals to put before the Board to change the status of three bat species. More discussion, research and coordination needs to be done, and we now have many questions that we can add to those we had developed internally as we seek to manage the state's wildlife resources."
Roe noted that the decision to include the request for public comment in the Pennsylvania Bulletin was intentional, as it is the Commonwealth's official gazette for information and rulemaking, and goes above and beyond the agency's statutory requirements for allowing for public comment.
"The Pennsylvania Bulletin is an important means of reaching anyone who follows state government, and is closely followed by representatives of various industries and conservation interests," Roe said. "To expand on our statutory requirements for public comment, we recently have begun taking advantage of this opportunity made available to state government agencies so that we can gather input before we - as a staff - begin to draft regulatory changes to take to the Board.
"Through this process, we heard from various wildlife organizations and representatives from the timber, oil, coal and gas industries, as well as legislators. At the present time, it is clear that more discussion, research and coordination need to be done on WNS and the other outside factors that are impacting our bat populations, as well as how we can craft solutions that protect bats without threatening the industries that employ thousands of Pennsylvanians."
Roe also noted that the Game Commission will be holding a public meeting with the House Game and Fisheries Committee later this month for the purpose of receiving additional input from members on this issue.
Roe noted that Game Commission biologists have been at the forefront of research into WNS, but that no treatments have been identified to eradicate the disease. In 2007, the Game Commission began working with wind energy developers to find ways to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts on bat and bird populations through a voluntary cooperative agreement, to which 33 wind developers have signed on.
"As the Commonwealth agency charged with protecting and conserving wild birds and mammals, we have an obligation to all Pennsylvanians to manage both game and nongame species," Roe said. "While we rely on sound science to guide our actions, we also consider public input and the resulting impacts of our actions. We look forward to working with concerned parties on both sides of the issue."
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