Protecting Endangered Species and Habitats

Non-Game Fish and Wildlife Laws

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is charged with promulgating regulations relating to wildlife as it deems necessary, including regulations for the “protection, preservation, and management of game or wildlife and game or wildlife habitat….” (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2102(a)). According to statute, the commission must regulate “the transportation, introduction into the wild, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale or purchase of game or wildlife or the disturbing of game or wildlife in their natural habitat.” (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2102(c)).

Threatened and Endangered Species Laws

Pennsylvania offers protection to both wildlife and plant species. Threatened and endangered wildlife species are defined to include those that are listed federally and those that are included on the Pennsylvania Endangered Species List (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 102). The PGC is authorized to adopt a regulation adding or removing “any wild bird or wild animal native to [the] Commonwealth to or from the Pennsylvania native list of endangered or threatened species.” (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.  § 2167(a)). It is unlawful “for any person to import, export, transport, sell, resell, exchange, take or possess….any birds or animals of any endangered or threatened species...” (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2924(d).  See also 34 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2167(b),(c)). The PGB may, however, issue permits for these activities (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2924(a)).

With regard to the protection of plants, the Department of Environmental Resources must investigate native species to gather information about their “population, distribution, [and] habitat needs” in order to ensure that they are successfully classified and managed (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5307(a)). Once a plant species has been classified as either endangered or threatened, individuals are not allowed “disturb, pick, or possess” them, unless they have an interest in the land where such species are located (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5311(a)). However, the department may issue permits allowing “the removal, collection, or transplanting of endangered or threatened plant species” to aid their “perpetuation as members of ecosystems” or the reestablishment of their natural range (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5308(a) & (c)).

    Basis of Listing

Pennsylvania law does not detail the criteria for listing wildlife species. The law defines threatened species as those on the federal list and those determined to be threatened with extinction and on the state list. Endangered species are those listed on the federal list and those that are on the state list and have been determined by the Department “to be in such small numbers throughout their range that they may become endangered if their environment worsens.” (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 102).

Pennsylvania law lists nine wild plant classifications that should be used by the Department of Environmental Resources in developing its classification system: extirpated, endangered, threatened, disjunct, endemic, restricted, limit of range, vulnerable, and undetermined (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5307(b)). The species classifications are based mainly on the species’ population, habitat, habitat range, and distribution (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5307(b)).

    Regulatory Protection of Special Habitat Areas that Mention Endangered or At-Risk Species

The Department of Environmental Resources may acquire natural areas or designate areas of previously-acquired land as “public wild plant sanctuaries.” (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5310(a)). The Department is charged with developing criteria for and promoting a “cooperative statewide system of private wild plant sanctuaries.” (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5307(d)). 

    Consultation Requirements

    Recovery Plans


Violation of the statutory prohibitions relating to threatened and endangered species of wild birds or animals is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and imprisonment (34 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.  §§ 2167(b),(c), 925(b).  See also 30 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2305).

The unlawful taking or destruction of a listed plant is punishable by not more than two hundred dollars (32 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.  § 5311(b)).

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