Western Governors Look At Improved Species Recovery
Western governors will consider How to best protect and recover threatened and endangered species is being studied by western governors after reviewing recommendations they received during a two-day Executive Summit on the Endangered Species Act. The Western Governors’ Association’s summit involved representatives of agriculture, conservation groups, government and industry.
“By using common-sense approaches to update and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, we can restore the spirit of the law,” said Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado, WGA chairman. “If we require goals to recover and restore and work with landowners and communities, then we will achieve success for the species and for our country.”
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico said: “I am pleased that no one at the summit is talking about rolling back protections for endangered species. What I heard at the summit confirms my view that the Endangered Species Act is an important, effective conservation law. It seems to me that we should consider only a few changes that refine the act – not major changes that would structurally redirect endangered species protection in the United States.”
The governors will further consider the recommendations made at the summit when they next meet in early March. Among the recommendations are:
— Increase landowner certainty to assist states in protecting and recovering species;
— Look at alternative solutions, such as mitigation banking and other market-based solutions;
— Improve cooperative efforts, such as regional conservation planning;
— Recognize successes that happen on the ground and encouraging proactive planning;
— Increase public participation in recovery planning and implementation.
Owens recognized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for its leadership with the preliminary decision that the Greater Sage Grouse is not threatened with extinction and does not need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The governors will continue to encourage state conservation efforts for the sage grouse. In particular, they will sponsor, with the Bureau of Land Management and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a February conference in Reno to convene local sage grouse working groups to learn from each other and decide what is needed to continue and expand successful efforts underway.
Gov. Kenny Guinn of Nevada on Friday led a panel discussion of state, federal and private representatives, including Assistant Secretary Craig Manson from the Department of the Interior.
“State and local governments should play leadership roles in managing species because we can help develop local solutions,” Guinn said.
Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota introduced the issue of science and its role in implementing the Endangered Species Act by describing the experience of South Dakota with the prairie dog. His session included a discussion with Rep. Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee; Dr. Rob Ramey from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; and John Leshy, the former solicitor at the Department of the Interior.
“The current process that encouraged this explosion of prairie dogs has made many of our ranch families ‘candidates’ for becoming ‘endangered species’ themselves, and that’s just plain wrong,” Rounds said. “We must change the process. The states have got to be included as co-equals in the ESA process to list, monitor and de-list species.”
The governors and participants explored ways to better use peer-reviewed science and to focus scientific information earlier in the listing process.
Gov. Linda Lingle of Hawaii led a panel on recovery issues. She described Hawaii’s efforts to recover the endangered plant, the red ilima.
“This conference has importantly emphasized the need to focus on the recovery of endangered species and the pivotal role states and private landowners play in recovery efforts,” Lingle said. “In Hawaii we will continue to focus on preserving habitats and moving species toward recovery. We enjoy a unique ecosystem in the United States and recognize what an irreplaceable asset it represents.”
Panelists and governors engaged in a thoughtful discussion on restoring the balance between listing and recovery, and ensuring that recovery plans are effective with both incentives and obligations for all parties to the plan.
The Western Governors’ Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states and three U.S.-Flag islands in the Pacific. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management.