Western governors eye endangered species changes

A coalition of western state governors is considering formally backing legislation to shift power away from the federal government for endangered species protections.

At a forum Wednesday in Denver led by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), said it’d be premature to say whether the Western Governors Association will ask for changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, according to the Denver Post.

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But the governors see the species law as ineffective, and want to see more species’ protections handled like the sage grouse, which avoided formal protections last year in favor of state-led efforts.

Federal officials have listed 2,309 species under the law, but only 33 have been removed.

“That's a 1.4 percent success rate,” Mead said. “We need, fundamentally, to do a better job of recovering species.”

He said that the ideas that come from the two-day forum need to focus on protecting habitats and other efforts before species are on the brink of extinction.

In general, the governors see the current law as having too many misplaced priorities.

“We're spending time, money and effort on species that have recovered. ... We're not spending time on species that need our help,” Mead said, according to the Post.. “There are species on the list that should not be on the list.”

A Fish and Wildlife Service official told the forum that the agency is trying to make the process work better for everyone involved, and it does not want changes to the current law.

“We're using our executive authority ... to make the act work better,” said Gary Frazer, the agency’s assistant director for endangered species. “We don't think the legislative approach is very viable. It is not going to change the Endangered Species Act in the short term.”