The endangered species act has been a terrific success, in other ways it has been an abysmal failure. For those who have had to work with it there has long been a bipartisan wish for reform.
Last summer in a meeting of all 17 governors representing all the states from Texas up to North Dakota and on west including Hawaii, Alaska, and American Samoa they adopted a resolution they all could agree on. Go to link labeled Endangered Species Act
Fees from hunting and fishing licenses and the kind donation of available habitat from local ranchers has brought the black footed ferret back from the brink of extinction via captive breeding and reintroduction.
You'd have to search long and hard to find an issue that governors from states as diverse as the left coast and Rick Perry of Texas could agree on. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is just such an issue.
The governors recognising their own "strongly held differences" none the less came to an agreeable consensus statement that they could all sign their names to. If the governor of Wyoming, Idaho, and Texas can agree with the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington on an issue environmental I believe there is a strong possibility for agreement in congress.
Seven key issues highlighted by the governors in their short but thorough resolution are... Bold is from the govs, underneath my interpretation, original at the link with more details.
Require recovery goals for listed species.
This means numerical goals which when met a species is delisted. Infamously population goals shift via lawsuits and judges.
Significant portion of the range must be defined.
This phrase has shape shifted over the past few lawsuits. Current interpretation is current range, not historic.
Enhance the role of state governments in recovering species.
The original ESA set the states and the feds on a more equal footing.
Ensure the use of sound science in ESA decisions.
Instead of kitten photos.
Incentives and funding for conservation are essential.
Pay to play. Right now all the onus is on the states (hunters and shooters) You want us to spend millions on species you list you need to come up with some cash for us to do it. The spending authority for the ESA ended in 92, it needs to be appropriated.
Foreseeable future must be defined.
Next week? Next century?
States should be full partners in listing and recovery planning decisions, particularly when modeling is used in analysis.
When computer geeks start playing with multi layered maps and projections due to climate change with time frames out beyond next century sometimes things get a little,, uhm, unrealistic. Maybe physically count some individuals of the species first.
What do I think is up? Everyone is sick of getting jerked around by the ESA. You want to save species? Great, so do I, you don't like the boots I wear? Not the original intent of the Act, Crocks are not a species. There are groups and people who do not approve of and will work with any means at their disposal to stop all ranching, farming, mining, logging, and hunting, on western lands. Notice I said western not public. Private lands are also constrained by the ESA. As things currently stand the best action to take if you know you have an endangered species on your land is to kill it quick before someone finds out it's there.
Do I think it will happen, maybe. If the 2014 elections allow legislation to start moving again the ESA might be one that many could agree on. The ESA is currently stretched to the breaking point. FWS and states are beginning to become dysfunctional in working together as they serve different masters. The red wolf in North Carolina which really might represent the last of an old subspecies, is being poached as fast as it can be reintroduced. California due to it's societal unease with hunting has suffered loss of revenue in it's Fish and Wildlife such that it can't patrol or enforce half it's laws on the books. Mines and oil companies not knowing what will be possible in the future are simply pushing as hard as they can and every place they can, right now. A more long term outlook would serve all of us better.
Every state has it's issues, and mostly they revolve around the unpredictability of ESA implementation. Careful who you donate to, you might be making things worse.
Update: Alternatively is Senate Bill 1731 introduced this week by Rand Paul and freinds which would basically gut the act altogether. There is also a house subcommittee holding hearings around the west on "fixing" the bill. There are a lot of ways this could go, especially with a loss of the senate, some fixes might not be to our liking.