Western guvs’ tilt on Endangered Species Act gets thumbs-up from landowners
Author: Dan Njegomir - June 29, 2017 - Updated: June 29, 2017
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.