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American marten ‘not yet’ coming back to Pennsylvania

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(The Center Square) — After years of research, a proposed plan, and a vote to table it, returning the American marten to the woods of Pennsylvania has been postponed — indefinitely.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission shelved plans for the marten, a small weasel about the size of two cans of beans, in a split vote during the April board meeting. The $2 million project would have released 300 martens into the wild in the Northern Tier to create a stable population.

A 6-3 vote to postpone the plan was driven by commissioners’ concerns that more work needs to be done to educate hunters and non-hunters about the marten and its potential impacts on other wildlife.

“Commissioners said they’ve heard from lots of people about the issue and want to address their concerns before moving forward,” a PGC press release noted.

But they also cautioned the public not to get overly focused on the “indefinite” postponement.

“I believe in a short amount of time we will have an affirmative decision,” President Commissioner Scott Foradora said.

Commissioners suggested they may revisit the marten reintroduction plan “soon,” possibly before the end of 2024.

When the marten plan was tabled in February, public surveys had found 37% support for the plan and 32% opposition, with 31% of respondents neutral on the issue.

Thomas Keller, a PGC furbearer biologist who spearheaded the marten reintroduction, was disappointed by the postponement, but held out hope for the future.

“We’ve done a lot of education and outreach over the past 3 years,” he said. “We did 105 in-person presentations throughout the state, wrote a variety of articles for popular media, did a variety of different podcasts, videos, brochures, and social media postings.”

Keller encouraged the public to read over the PGC’s information on the marten to understand the plan.

“I’d encourage folks to learn more about it because it’s a native, once-common species to the state that I feel is important to consider reintroducing to the state,” he said.

Developing the American marten’s reintroduction plan also gave the PGC a more formalized process for returning other species to Pennsylvania in the future. Previous efforts were more ad hoc with less of a consistent approach.

Nor is the marten the only species looking to return to its native lands. In April, the PGC released dozens of bobwhite quail in southern Pennsylvania, a once-common bird that’s disappeared from the commonwealth.

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