Gordon touts changes to ESA, Critics complain protections lessoned, habitat threatened

Wyoming's Black Footed Ferret is a species still in recovery. USFWS Photo

Governor Mark Gordon today voiced his support for improvements to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) announced by the U.S Department of the Interior, noting that updates will bring needed consistency to the state’s efforts to manage species. The Governor announced his support of the changes in a news release issued from his office.

The updates to the implementation regulations finalized Monday by Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service apply to ESA sections 4 and 7. Section 4, among other things, deals with adding species to or removing species from the Act’s protections and designating critical habitat; section 7 covers consultations with other federal agencies.

The improvements are intended to restore the distinction between threatened and endangered species, provide clarity and consistency to environmental reviews, and ease regulatory burdens without sacrificing species protections.

Wyoming’s Black Footed Ferret is one threatened species still in recovery. Thought extinct, 18 of the mammals were found on a ranch near Meeteetse in 1985. The species now numbers about 300 to 400 wild ferrets in locations in several states but the recovery of the species has been slow.

“Wyoming is a leader in wildlife management and conservation with a proven track record,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “Today’s updates to the implementing regulations of the Endangered Species Act are welcome. Wyoming has always relied on science-based decision making, and we have taken a proactive approach to the management of sensitive species in an effort to avoid the need to list them. These updates to the ESA will further streamline processes and place an emphasis on local management. This has been an ongoing effort of several Wyoming administrations. These updates also complement the work of Senator Barrasso in improving the ESA.”

Not everyone was as upbeat about the changes as the Governor, however, The International Journal of Science, Nature, said “the revisions cripple the ESA’s ability to protect species under increased threat from human development and climate change.” The article said the changes “threaten to undermine the last 40 years of progress,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Washington D.C. Among the criticism of the changes, Nature reported that the new regulations would “allow federal agencies to conduct economic analyses when deciding whether to protect a species.”