The state House did not vote as expected on a bill that would put more control over the management of endangered and threatened species in the hands of legislators.
Sources in Harrisburg said supporters of the bill believed they didn't have enough votes to pass the Endangered Species Coordination Act.
Speaking from a conference in Denver, John Arway, executive director of the state Fish and Boat Commission, said Fish and Boat, the state Game Commission and groups opposed to House Bill 1576 had offered last-minute gestures designed to "give them some of what they want."
"[Supporters of the bill] want to know the home ranges of endangered species for planning purposes," said Arway. "We're offering them other things that wouldn't impact endangered species and wouldn't impact [Fish and Boat], but would make it easier for businesses to plan around them."
Those options would enable supporters and opponents of the controversial bill to tell constituents and allies they "won."
The state Legislative Budget and Finance Committee has launched a report spearheading an attempt to merge the Game and Fish and Boat commission.
Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, said a merger would save the state about $5 million annually through the elimination of redundant upper level positions and duplication of services.
"The idea of a merger is definitely something that deserves further consideration," said Causer, in a written statement. "After reading through the study, I would classify the proposed savings as a very conservative estimate. I think the savings would be far greater."
John Arway of Fish and Boat reads the same report differently.
"The report makes it clear that we are extremely efficient in how we use our financial resources. Specifically, the LBFC found that of the states surveyed, our agency 'has the lowest expenditures per license' ... [and] we do a lot with a little compared to other agencies across the country. The report supports our long-standing contention that Pennsylvania is best served by retaining the existing agency structure."
Elk Creek ice hazard
A huge ice jam on a popular Erie County steelhead stream has created an unusual hazard for anglers. An ice dam has formed on Elk Creek from the old bridge at Girard upstream through Legion Park, obstructing the normal flow for over a mile. If the dam breaks abruptly, water would rush downstream rapidly creating dangerous, potentially life-threatening conditions for anglers fishing below.
March ice fishing
Following an unusually long cold period, the recent warm-up has led to a relative novelty in angling -- ice fishing in warmish weather. Ice on some regional lakes has had months to thicken, unusual at this latitude. Even west of the Allegheny Mountains, ice was abundant -- two weeks ago Lake Arthur in Butler County had an 18-inch cap. A week or two of seasonable weather in the 40s and 50s has resulted in some melting, but on many lakes the wet ice has remained safe -- March 8 anglers in light jackets comfortably fished through solid ice on lower Twin Lakes outside of Greensburg. Those favorable conditions won't last forever. Ice anglers are reminded that 4 inches of solid ice is the minimum required to support one person and gear.