- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The governors of Wyoming and Montana will head to Washington, D.C., next week to give their perspective on how to improve the Endangered Species Act.

Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead took over as head of the Western Governors’ Association this summer and is making reform of the act a priority.

Mead and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat and the association’s vice chairman, are set to address a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Tuesday. Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will also testify.

Many people in Wyoming, a top energy-producing state, were relieved this week when the U.S. Department of Interior announced it had determined not to list the greater sage grouse as endangered. As the state with the most sage grouse, Wyoming could have seen limits on energy development in habitat if the decision had gone the other way.

Still, Interior announced new plans to protect sage grouse habitat on almost 28,000 square miles of federal lands in Wyoming, an area covering nearly one third of the state.



Mead last month announced that the Western Governors’ Association will hold five forums around the West to collect information on how to improve the Endangered Species Act. The first will be held in Wyoming this fall.

The act “touches the people and economies of Western states in a significant way,” Mead said last month in announcing the effort. “This initiative is intended to take a hard look.”

Mead has focused much of his criticism of the ESA on how difficult it is to remove federal protections for a species once it is listed. He has said that since 1973, when the federal law was enacted, 2,280 species have been protected but only 30 have been taken off the list after being classified as recovered.

Dave Parker, spokesman for Bullock, said Friday that Bullock believes that Western governors, Republicans and Democrats, are in the best position to find a common sense approach. Parker said he couldn’t say whether Bullock will press to change any particular aspects of the law.

Wyoming and the U.S. Department of Interior are appealing last year’s decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that rejected a federal government decision to end protections for wolves in the state.

Wyoming’s wolf management plan classified the animals as unprotected predators that could be shot on sight in most areas, an approach that drew opposition from national environmental groups.

Montana lawyer Tim Preso of Earthjustice represents environmental groups that challenged Wyoming’s wolf plan. He said Friday that the proper measure of success of the Endangered Species Act is its track record of preventing species from going extinct. He said he regards current calls for improving the law to be “Trojan horse efforts” to undermine key provisions.

“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent effective at preventing extinctions, which is kind of amazing when you consider the huge amount of population expansion, and expanded human footprint on this continent since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973,” Preso said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide