Mead announces Endangered Species Act as WGA Chairman’s Initiative
Casper – “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is focused on listing and not on recovery,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead during an Aug. 26 press conference at Grey Reef Access Area southwest of Casper. “My initiative as chairman of the Western Governor’s Association (WGA) is to focus on the ESA and engage western states and their people in this issue.”
Mead, who began his term as WGA chairman in June, was joined by WGA Executive Director Jim Ogsbury for the announcement. Mead noted that WGA is uniquely poised to develop bipartisan solutions to the problems with the ESA.
“We have an opportunity to develop resolutions that are bipartisan in nature,” he said of WGA. “As Governor Herbert of Utah says, ‘When western governors come together, it isn’t the Republican or Democrat party, it is the common sense party,’ and the history of WGA shows that is exactly right.”
Working in the West
Because of the profound impact of the ESA, Mead noted that the issue is one that all western states can come together on to develop solutions.
“We want to engage the western states and the people of the West to help us answer some questions,” he said. “How can the ESA be improved? Where is it working? Where is it not working? What things need to be done in terms of rules and regulations to make the Act work better?”
After selecting a team representing a wide array of interests to lead the effort, Mead noted that WGA will hold the first of five listening sessions in late October or early November this year. The first session will be held in Wyoming.
“We want to engage other people in this issue and hear all the suggestions from the public,” he said. “By early next year, we will have some draft language in place on what the changes should be.”
By next June’s WGA meeting, to be held in Wyoming, Mead said the western governors will come together to vote on the issue.
“If we get some good strong language that is viewed as very positive, the next step will be to run a national resolution for the National Governor’s Association,” Mead added. “This is a great opportunity for our western governors and others to do the hard, heavy work and build on it from a national level.”
“The ESA is intended to protect and recover listed species,” Mead explained during the event. “Presently, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) places a great deal of focus on listing and not enough focus on recovery.”
Mead cited that 1,568 species are listed as endangered in the U.S. An additional 652 species from around the globe are also included, for a total of 2,221 endangered species on the planet.
“Since the ESA was enacted in 1973, 2,280 species have been listed globally,” he continued. “Only 59 of those 2,280 have ever been delisted. Of those, 10 went extinct, 30 recovered and 19 were delisted due to errors in the original data and the species didn’t warrant protection.”
Mead continued, “That means roughly one percent of all species that have been listed have ever been delisted. That is not a story of success.”
In Wyoming, Mead noted that citizens have a great desire to protect species and conserve species in the state.
“We see a high level of frustration when we do what we need to protect a species,” he continued, citing the grey wolf as an example.
After over a year of work with then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on wolves, along with Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott, Wyoming developed a state plan to manage wolves responsibly to maintain a healthy and genetically viable population.
“We worked hard and came to an agreement that, while not perfect, did all it needed to do to make sure wolves continue to not only exist but to thrive in Wyoming,” Mead explained. “Despite the agreement, we find out that the plan is not sufficient, even though, in the Judge’s opinion, wolves have more than fully recovered.”
The same is true of the grizzly bear, Mead added.
Wyoming, he continued, is home to a number of endangered and threatened species, and the state has led efforts to recover many species, including the sage grouse.
Building on success
“Wyoming, of any state, has citizens who have a great appreciation for wildlife,” Mead said. “We love the fact that our 11,000 ranches and farms have done so much to preserve so many species and help species thrive.”
Wyoming has a strong record of bringing diverse interests together to develop plans to conserve species, Mead added, citing Bighorn sheep and sage grouse as two prime examples.
“We are going to engage industry, agriculture, environmental groups, conservation groups and everyone across the West to see how we can do better with regards to the ESA,” Mead said. “I’m convinced that collectively, we can do better than only delisting one percent of all the species that have been listed.”
“We have over 2,000 species on the list and only one percent delisted, something is wrong with the ESA,” Mead emphasized. “I think we can come together, despite political differences, to resolve issues that are of common importance in the West.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.