Western Governors Split on Legislating the Endangered Species Act

Contact: Jared Saylor (202) 772-3255; jsaylor@defenders.org

GW:  Opening the law to legislative changes in this Congress will not result in good conservation policy says the animal rights extremists.  No doubt, it’s time for a change.

WASHINGTON – The Western Governors’ Association today issued recommendations to change the Endangered Species Act(ESA) at their annual meeting in Whitefish, Montana. Two governors – Gov. Jerry Brown (CA) and Gov. Jay Inslee (WA) – refused to join the resolution.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“The Western Governors’ Association’s call for legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act opens a Pandora’s box in this hostile Congress. Since 2015, Congress has introduced more than 150 bills, amendments and riders that would undermine the ESA and weaken conservation measures for imperiled species. We cannot risk opening the Act to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation’s most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.

“In the current highly partisan political climate, any bill to rewrite the ESA will significantly damage the Act and undermine imperiled species conservation. The Endangered Species Act is fundamentally sound. It does not need to be ‘fixed,’ it needs to be fully funded.

The ESA already allows for flexibility in protecting wildlife and their habitat. There is always room for creative, pragmatic solutions in implementing the Act. Science, not Congress, should determine how to save species.

“We commend California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who opposed the WGA’s resolution. Gov. Brown summed up the dangers of legislating on the ESA best when he wrote in a letter to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, former chair of the WGA, that ‘The current climate in Congress is marked by chaos and partisanship. This climate will not result in good conservation policy.'”

In 2015, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, who chaired the WGA at the time, launched the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative intended to “take a hard look at the ESA—how it is working and how it is not working.” WGA held stakeholder workshops and webinars to hear from energy and mining interests, agriculture and forestry industries, government agencies, sportsmen and recreation groups and environmental organizations.

Defenders of Wildlife is one of the few environmental organizations to have participated in nearly every one of the workshops and webinars, lending our expertise on the Endangered Species Act and offering constructive proposals for improving the administration of the Act without the need for legislative changes.