Watchdogs say Western Governors’ Association is trying to weaken endangered species protections

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Not much love for endangered species like lynx at a recent Western Governors’ Association workshop. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Recent workshop focused on industry gripes

Staff Report

For the apparent lack of anything productive to do, the Western Governors’s Association is apparently trying to cook up new ways to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of developers and extractive industries.

The association held a workshop last week, ostensibly to “encourage bipartisan conversations to improve the Endangered Species Act,” but that is just more Orwellian doublespeak, according to watchdog groups, who pointed out that speakers during the meeting “overwhelmingly represented industries and political interests opposed to protections for endangered species.”“This workshop is just the latest effort to gut the Endangered Species Act,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Not a single idea offered in this workshop would improve the recovery of a single species under the Endangered Species Act. Instead we heard the usual industry gripes alleging that the Endangered Species Act obstructs extraction of fossil fuels and other destructive activities.”

At the workshop, speakers recommended measures that would delay protection of wildlife, weaken standards for reliance on best available science and increase the role of states – including ones hostile to endangered species – in decisions about whether species are protected.

Similar to recent attacks in the Republican-controlled Congress, which have seen a 600-percent increase in recent years, speakers at the workshop criticized protections for gray wolves, grizzly bears, American burying beetles, lesser prairie-chickens and others.

“In 2015, hundreds of endangered species got less than $1,000 each for their recovery, and some species received nothing all,” said Hartl. “Yet not a single speaker at this workshop mentioned the enormous funding shortfall the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service faces in places like the Southeast or Hawaii. Instead we see this myopic focus on taking protections away from the American burying beetle and lesser prairie-chicken, as if that represents real reform of the Endangered Species Act.”

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