(C) dron285 – Stock.Adobe.com Wildlife Crossing – Bridge over a highway in forest
A resolution to study the benefits of conservation corridors in Pennsylvania is being reintroduced by a Democratic state lawmaker in the House this session.
State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, said in a co-sponsorship memorandum this week that she is again proposing a resolution to authorize a study on the “current status, management and benefits of conservation corridors” in Pennsylvania in the hope that the study will help state entities better protect wildlife and residents.
Conservation — or wildlife corridors — are strips of natural habitat that link wildlife populations that are otherwise separated by roads, farmland, and other man-made obstacles.
Pennsylvania consistently ranks high among states with the most car accidents involving wildlife.
A 2022-23 study of State Farm Insurance claims involving animal collisions found that Pennsylvania ranks 6th among states where an individual driver is most likely to hit an animal with a 1 in 57 chance of a crash.
At least 12 states have enacted legislation or issued an executive order on wildlife corridors in recent years, including California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The new resolution will match HR 74 from the 2021-22 legislative session, which passed the House Transportation committee last March in a 24-1 vote, and HR 670 from the 2019-20 session, neither of which ever made it to the House floor for a full vote, Daley said.
Despite several previous failed attempts to get the resolution passed, Daley is confident that this time will be different.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Daley told the Capital-Star, adding that she is especially optimistic that the resolution will move after the Feb. 7 special election, which could give House Democrats the majority for the first time in more than a decade.
“I think that will make a difference in being able to move it relatively quickly,” Daley said. “It’s a really good time to get this thing done and the study completed so that we have this information.”
The study authorized by the resolution would be conducted by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
It would assist state agencies, such as the Game Commission and Department of Transportation in their efforts to manage wildlife habitat, limit forest fragmentation, and plan connectivity and crossings, “as well as maintain and enhance Pennsylvania as one of the nation’s top destinations for outdoor recreation tourism,” the Jan. 30 memo reads.
“It’s an attraction in this state to come out and view animals and it brings revenue into the state,” Daley said, adding that people in Pennsylvania “are very supportive of bills and legislation that is good for animals.”
Any recommendations reached as a result of the study would be directed to “government agencies and departments and, as appropriate, shared with non-profits and private owners,” according to the co-sponsorship memo.
“We are gratified to see Rep. Daley’s plan to reintroduce this important legislation this session,” Molly Parzen, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, said. “Strengthening conservation corridors will protect sensitive species and preserve critical habitat across the state.”
Daley did not say how much the study would cost. But she did say that the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee told her that the study can be completed without the need for additional staffing support.
With support from the House’s Climate Caucus and outside organizations such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a national environmental conservation nonprofit, Daley said she believes the non-concurrent resolution, which only needs House approval, can finally pass the lower chamber this session.
“I’m more hopeful this session that it will see some action,” Daley said.
The House is currently scheduled to reconvene on Feb. 27.
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