Pa. bill to increase fines for killing bald, golden eagles passes latest vote
- Senate Bill 709, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh/Northampton, has passed a House committee vote
- The bill would increase the fine and direct any monies collected toward bald and golden eagle conservation efforts across the commonwealth
- Bald eagles are no longer deemed endangered or threatened
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Legislation that would increase fines from $200 to $2,000 for killing a bald eagle in Pennsylvania has successfully overcome its latest hurdle — a House committee vote.
“I have sponsored this bill to protect bald and golden eagles and have advocated for its passage over multiple legislative sessions,” said state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh/Northampton, in a news release. “The bald eagle holds immense representation on seals, buildings, monuments and state flags, including ours.
“It is our duty to ensure their continued presence in our skies.”
The House Game & Fisheries Committee on Tuesday passed the bill, Senate Bill 709, in an almost unanimous vote, with only two opposing. First introduced by Boscola in 2015 and approved by the Senate in July, the bill would increase the fine and direct any monies collected toward bald and golden eagle conservation efforts across the commonwealth. The next step would be a final passage vote in the House.
“Our outlook this session is even more bright,” Boscola said. “I believe we have better odds of breaking through this year. I am encouraging the public to join us, to urge for stricter protections that will help protect these majestic eagles.”
Adopted as the national symbol in 1782, bald eagles are raptors — the birds of prey that have been migrating through the Lehigh Valley over the last several weeks. While conservation efforts have worked to help rebound threatened and endangered species in recent years, these birds still face threats from lead poisoning and poaching.
There are federal protections in place that would apply to poachers on top of any state penalties — The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
Enacted in 1940, prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from "taking" bald or golden eagles, including their parts (as well as feathers), nests or eggs. A violation of the Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.
“With the successful return of the bald eagle off the endangered list, more and more will be seen in the wild. We want to send a message to potential poachers — ‘You cannot afford this. We are taking this seriously.’”State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh/Northampton
“Disturbing cases in Oregon, Minnesota, Texas and Washington over the last few years have shown that occurrences of eagle poaching still exist,” Boscola said. “With the successful return of the bald eagle off the endangered list, more and more will be seen in the wild. We want to send a message to potential poachers — ‘You cannot afford this. We are taking this seriously.’”
Local conservation efforts
The Valley’s back yard holds a raptor superhighway, and the migration is still happening.
TheLehigh Gap Nature Center’s Bake Oven Knob Hawk Watch continues through Nov. 24, Chad Schwartz, executive director, said in an email this week. The center welcomes volunteers.
Hawk Mountain’s migration season ends a bit later, on Dec. 15, said a spokesperson for the sanctuary, 1700 Hawk Mountain Road, with a finalized count expected towards the end of the year. Officials there also have a volunteer program.