Governor Calls For Endangered Species Act Reform
Wyoming loves its wildlife, Gov. Matt Mead said Wednesday.
It does not love the way the federal government has handled wildlife through the 1973 Endangered Species Act, Mead said at a news conference.
"Roughly 1 percent of all species that have been listed have been delisted," he said. "This is not a story of success."
Mead, now the chairman of the bipartisan Western Governors' Association, wants his organization to change that, he said.
"I want the Western governors, after getting consultations from experts from all over, to put together some strong language that provides meaningful, substantial improvements to the Endangered Species Act,
"So that there is a way to get species delisted that have recovered, that more emphasis has been put on recovery rather than just listing, and then take it to the national level and to see if we can get some momentum to have not just the West, but the country pay attention and recognize there's room for improvement," Mead said after the news conference at the Gray Reef Reservoir access area.
The reservoir and this area of the North Platte River are habitat for the piping plover, the whooping crane and the least tern, and they are among the 2,280 species that have been put under the protection of the Act.
But getting on a list doesn't necessarily means anything much gets done, Mead said.
Of the 2,280 species, only 59 have been removed from the list: 30 that were recovered, 10 that went extinct, and 19 that were later delisted because of an error in the original data showing those species did not warrant protection, he said. By keeping some species on the list, other species needing help may be ignored, he said.
All Western states deal with these issues, and Mead's initiative will include five forums in the West for discussion and gathering information. The first forum is scheduled for late October or early November, and he hopes the association has a plan by June, he said.
The WGA has the 19 states and three U.S.-flag islands. Its policy director Holly Propst said it has a bipartisan record of success because issues such as drought and wildlife don't change whether governors are Republicans or Democrats.
That doesn't mean the issues are easy to resolve.
In the case of endangered species, frustrations run deep. A listed species such the gray wolf means the federal government, and not the states, are managing the wildlife.
The possible listing of the sage grouse is up next, and its fate could greatly affect the west, Mead said.
The Interior Department's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces a court-ordered deadline of Sept. 30 to decide whether it should receive protection as a threatened or endangered species. The decision would not just affect the bird, but its habitat that includes millions of acres used by ranchers and extractive industries.
"I can tell you it is important for the entire West," he said. "All western governors are watching what the decision will be next month."