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Environment & Energy

Game Commission to Name Three Pennsylvania Birds “Threatened”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission Board Members have proposed adding three bird species to the state's threatened species list. The Board of Game Commissioners suggested the upland sandpiper, northern harrier and long-eared owl be added to the list, partly in order to update breeding patterns and scientific data regarding bird populations.

Jerry Feaser, Press Secretary for the Commission, said these three particular species are being threatened by wetland and grassland-related issues. He said the upland sandpiper's population has "virtually disappeared" and has declined substantailly over the last twenty years.

Also proposed for the threatened species list in Pennsylvania is the northern harrier. It was previously a rare bird while maintaining regular breeding patterns, but in recent years it has declined. The northern harrier is also either endangered or threatened in Pennsylvania-neighboring states, so Feaser said the species' addition is not much of a surprise.

Finally, the Board members suggested the long-eared owl be listed as threatened because only seven locations throughout Pennsylvania have been identified as being nesting grounds.

Feaser said things like hunting and trapping do not contribute to the threatened or endangered status for these species.

"These species are being pushed to the brink of extinction based on habitat loss and habitat destruction," Feaser said. "Some of these species depend on very unique habitats for breeding, and when those types of habitats are lost it impacts that species' ability to maintain a foothold here in the commonwealth."

Timbering, a large industry in Pennsylvania, isn't necessarily the culprit in destroying bird habitats. Feaser said in some cases, timbering is a habitat enhancement.

"By changing the makeup of the vegetation, timbering can be a very important part of improving habitat conditions for some wildlife species," Feaser said.

The amendments to the list will be finalized by a second vote of the Game Commission's Board Members at its September meeting.