Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirAugust 30, 20175min681
Lesli Allison

As Congress returns from the August recess, many questions remain about the future of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Recently, the House Natural Resources Committee heard a series of legislative proposals addressing the program’s effectiveness, implementation, and even the legitimacy of the Act itself. While opinions about the ESA vary widely, Western Landowners Alliance believes it is in our common interest as a nation to preserve the intent and integrity of the Act, while improving the way in which it is implemented. Just as the ESA was originally adopted with strong bipartisan support, we also need a collaborative and bipartisan process to improve outcomes for both people and wildlife.

We also believe that real and enduring solutions will only be found through constructive partnerships with the farmers and ranchers who own and manage the working landscapes upon which the majority of our wildlife depend. The West is a checkerboard of public and private lands and wildlife species have never shown great deference to fences segregating these landscapes. As such, management of those species is often a shared responsibility between the states and private landowners. This quazi co-management becomes more difficult and complicated when species become listed as threatened or endangered, at which point the species falls under the management of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). FWS’s involvement generally results in regulatory restrictions to land use which can disproportionately impact landowners, particularly those who have kept land open and able to support wildlife when human development and activity have displaced them elsewhere. So, what should Congress consider as they seek to improve the ESA?

First and foremost, we need to elevate dialogue on the management and conservation of our lands and natural resources above the level of partisan rhetoric and tweets. It’s too important, and the issues involved are too complex. Congress must work across the aisle and with all key stakeholders in a thoughtful, collaborative process designed not to gut regulations, but to improve efficiency and outcomes for people and wildlife.

Second, focus should be on increasing proactive, voluntary actions that keep species from becoming imperiled in the first place and helping those that are spurring recovery more quickly. Up to 80 percent of wildlife species rely on private land for survival. Landowners can and should be engaged as partners. This means implementing the ESA in a way that recognizes and supports those who maintain habitat and manage for species conservation and recovery. Strategic investments up front can save tremendous costs, reduce regulation and better support both people and wildlife than waiting until species are on the brink of extinction.

Finally, collaboration and flexibility are essential in the management and conservation of our working landscapes, which provide both for wildlife and also for many human needs. In these complex landscapes, land use and conservation must be integrated and circumstances change continuously through time. This means we have to work together in an ongoing process of adaptive management and we need relationships built on trust to succeed. Congress can both set an example and also provide the institutional frameworks and targeted funding to better support place-based, collaborative management.

At the end of the day, land, natural resources and biodiversity make our existence possible. Through increased collaboration and smart investments, we can manage these resources responsibly and in a manner that does not jeopardize the livelihood of those putting food on our tables. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.


Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 29, 20174min311

On the same day they heard Trump administration Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke bemoan a “breach of trust” between the public and the federal government in the West, the region’s governors called for changes in a federal law they say bears some of the blame for that breach.

The Western Governors Association adopted a resolution at their annual meeting in Whitefish, Montana, Tuesday endorsing the much-debated Endangered Species Act — but seeking tweaks that would provide checks and balances. Notably, they want Congress to expand states’ role in applying the act, and to clarify goals for recovery of species protected under the act.

That drew backup applause today from a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based stakeholders’ group that has a substantial Colorado following and had a hand in shaping the initiative, the Western Landowners Alliance. It released a statement by Executive Director Lesli Allison that read in part:

“We commend WGA for the thoughtful and bipartisan process they undertook to explore ways to improve wildlife conservation and the Endangered Species Act. In particular, we are appreciative of the recognition of the important roles landowners play in wildlife conservation and the need to support their voluntary stewardship efforts. We believe a collaborative approach to habitat conservation is the best way to keep additional species from reaching a state of threatened or endangered. … We agree with the Western Governors that the principles and intent of the ESA are sound and we believe improvements to its implementation could benefit both species and working lands.”

The Alliance, established in 2011, says its mission is, “…to advance policies and practices that sustain working lands, connected landscapes and native species.”

The predominantly Republican, 22-state governors association also includes Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and five other Democrats. The vote count on the resolution wasn’t made public, according to the Associated Press; presumably, at least some of the Democrats dissented.

As expected, environmental groups took a dim view of the governors’ resolution.  The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, weighed in with a blog post headlined, “Western Governors Ass’n Seeks to Undo Endangered Species Act.” Here’s the organization’s blogger Elly Pepper:

At the Western Governors Association’s biannual meeting in Whitefish, Montana today, the governors passed a resolution that would undermine the Endangered Species Act—one of our nation’s most important laws.

The governors claim they “applaud the principles and intent” of the Act and simply want to “improve” it. But they – and we – know that amending the law in the current political climate would incur significant harm on imperiled species and, likely, lead many to disappear forever.


Ernest LuningErnest LuningApril 20, 201732min529

When U.S. Rep. Ken Buck first arrived in Washington, D.C., after winning election to Congress in 2014, it was the most amazing thing. “You would think that you were in Vienna in some sort of fairy tale,” the Windsor Republican said. “The Army choir is singing, the filet mignon is on the plate, the speaker of the House, and you have a historian from the Library of Congress, and you are just wined and dined. And there’s one message in that wining and dining: If you play the game the way we want you to play the game, life is very good in Washington, D.C. I also learned the flip side of that — If you don’t play the game the way we want you to play the game, life is not going to be very pleasant for you in Washington, D.C.”

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirApril 3, 20172min227
The loved and loathed Preble’s meadow jumping mouse was thought to be on its way to extinction when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared it “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1998. Of course, the designation assumed the critter really was a distinct species in the first place. And there’s the rub: Critics of the nearly two-decade-old […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 26, 20173min300

… and you have to wonder if it’s despite — or because of — the outcry against his appearances across the country. Of course, that’s not to suggest the right-wing comedian/showman/political agitator has to rely on the kind of paid ringers who used to picket racy movies in the old days to lure a bigger audience. Milo Yiannopoulos is his own best advance man and probably knows it.

His reputation precedes him, endearing him to the right, infuriating the left and pretty much guaranteeing him a sellout crowd. Controversy is his schtick, as we were reminded when ColoradoPolitics.com’s Joey Bunch first reported last month that the gay Yiannopoulos’s “Dangerous Faggot Tour” was coming to Colorado.

He had faced by-now-ritual opposition from assorted student groups prior to his standup routine Wednesday night at the University of Colorado at Boulder; there even were some arrests at the event. The campus crowd has been just as divided at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in anticipation of his appearance there tonight.

As in Boulder, student activists in the Springs have been demanding that the appearance be canceled. As The Gazette in Colorado Springs reports today, though:

Following a shooting of a protester during Yiannopoulos’ appearance at the University of Washington last Friday, UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said in an email to students this week that university officials have “heard from many people again asking us to cancel.”

“As a public institution, the University of Colorado respects freedom of speech, and we may not refuse Yiannopoulos an opportunity to speak when a student group has invited him to campus,” Shockley-Zalabak said. “We have consistently said that Yiannopoulos does not represent the University of Colorado’s ideals, and we will continue to denounce his tactics.”

Read the Gazette’s full report for more on that. And for more on the phenomenon of Yiannopoulos himself, check out Bunch’s December story; here’s that link again.