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PA's new Wildlife Action Plan approved by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Feb 27, 2017
An updated blueprint for continued management and protection of Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife

An updated blueprint for continued management and protection of Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need has been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

This revision updates the 2005 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan that has guided management of the Commonwealth’s troubled wildlife for the past 10 years. The approved 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan ensures that the Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and Game Commission remain eligible for federal funding through the State Wildlife Grant Program. 

“The Service is confident that the plan will yield great benefits for the conservation of Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife resources,” said James W. Kurth, USFWS Deputy Director for Operations. “We look forward to working with you as you implement it.”

Using the best available science, the PFBC and Game Commission coordinated the congressionally required 10-year update of the Commonwealth’s existing wildlife action. Also contributing technical expertise to this reorganized and updated plan were federal and other state agencies, conservation organizations and several universities, including a small army of affiliated biologists and other professionals. Administered by both commissions, this plan is a road map for all Pennsylvanians interested in wildlife conservation.

“Our new plan keeps us on the course we charted for wildlife conservation a decade ago,” emphasized R. Matthew Hough, Game Commission executive director. “But making progress and protecting imperiled species in the face of mounting development and environmental problems will not be easy. It will take a greater commitment from more Pennsylvanians and more funding for wildlife to stay the course.

“Pennsylvania now finds itself in a conservation conundrum: the state’s resource agencies are in trouble financially,” explained Hough. “Although this plan outlines how best to help our species of greatest conservation need and prevent species from becoming endangered, resource agencies will need teamwork from the public and legislative assistance to ensure we can stay as proactive as we must.”

PFBC Executive Director John Arway added that “this plan builds upon the strong foundation and many collaborative efforts under the first plan. Implementing this plan will continue to advance our knowledge of Pennsylvania’s species and their habitats so we can develop the most informed management recommendations to secure species now and for the future. 

"The plan will produce benefits for all fish and wildlife species that occupy similar habitats,” he added. “For example, improving wetlands to support bog turtles will benefit base flows in adjacent streams which support native fish species like Brook Trout.

“We live in a dynamic environment and this plan is our guide for conservation in the years ahead.” 

In evaluating the Pennsylvania plan, reviewers noted it was a step forward for Pennsylvania.

“The end result is an improvement over Pennsylvania’s 2005 Plan, as the new plan will serve as an updated blueprint for implementing the conservation of Pennsylvania’s … fauna and natural habitats through the conservation actions of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Pennsylvania Game Commission, their partners, and the communities and individuals of the state.”

The review team included Colleen Sculley, a regional chief in the USFWS’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and David Whitehurst, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Resources in the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VADGIF), with technical assistance from Dee Blanton (USFWS) and Chris Burkett (VADGIF).

Since 2000, when enacting legislation established the State Wildlife Grant Program, Pennsylvania has received about $29 million, matched by $17 million in non-federal funding, and invested it in more than 100 projects with conservation partners. In recent years the Commonwealth has received about $1.5 million annually – shared equally between the Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission – to protect and recover imperiled species, such as bald eagles and ospreys, and their habitats. Funds also have helped fund numerous projects providing crucial information on species distribution and populations for everything from northern flying squirrels to Atlantic sturgeon, contributing greatly to an improved understanding of their status and management needs. It also has helped fund regional investigations of white-nose syndrome and development of the state’s second atlas of breeding birds.

The wildlife action plan, through its ongoing efforts to conserve species of greatest conservation need, also substantially influences the welfare of other wildlife. It truly is helping to keep common native species common by guiding habitat management and other vital conservation actions. It plays a significant role in sustaining wildlife health and diversity.

The plan, which included public input during the revision process, outlines which wildlife species face a considerable uphill battle and what actions we can take to help them right their populations. Some require government initiatives; others, local or property owner involvement. But there are plenty of species in need of help, and many recommendations on how people can get involved. The plan offers its vision on how people who care about wildlife can advance conservation through local, state and national programs and projects, and works hard to raise awareness of the problems wildlife faces.

The plan offers insight and comprehensive guidance on how best to tackle the problems of Pennsylvania’s 664 species of greatest conservation need, a list comprised of including 90 birds, 19 mammals, 65 fishes, 22 reptiles, 18 amphibians and 450 terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.

To learn more about the Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan, and its significant role in conservation, as well as State and Tribal Wildlife Grant projects within Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website at www.fishandboat.com.