The Endangered Species Act was under Senate scrutiny Wednesday, when the Environment and Public Works Committee met to discuss how to reform the law.
Former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal attended the meeting chaired by Senator John Barrasso. Both politicians said that while the ESA is important, it needs an update, and mentioned the Western Governor’s Association’s efforts to come up with specific recommendations for reform.
Wyoming’s current governor, Matt Mead, has spearheaded that project. Policy advisor David Willms says that the group is looking for ways to clarify the process, and give more flexibility to wildlife agencies.
“We need a clear methodology for delisting species," Willms said. “For example, clear recovery goals, and when recovery goals are met, having the secretary pursue delisting of the now recovered species; things like finding ways to really incentivize voluntary conservation, really because, at the end of the day, the best way to deal with the act is to never have to work with the act.”
Wilms hopes that the Senate hearings will result in a bi-partisan solution.
“Potentially there is a middle ground,” Willms said. “There is a place where all interested parties can get together and work on making improvements to the act, without a need to repeal the act as some have talked about, or weaken the act as some have talked about, but truly make the act better for wildlife and for people.”
Two former wildlife officials as well as representatives from the Farm Bureau and Defenders of wildlife also testified at Wednesday’s meeting. Most of the presenters agreed that the ESA should be improved – the challenge will be in deciding how.