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Governors air gripes about Endangered Species Act

 Western governors meet for two-day conference

Herald and News 12/9/10

     LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Endangered Species Act is a “nonsensical” policy that hurts businesses, property owners and farmers to protect animals and plants that may not be at risk, a panel of Democratic and Republican governors from throughout the West said Wednesday.

   The governors complained of having their hands tied by federal policy as animal populations described as thriving but   listed as endangered ravage private ranches, state parks and golf courses. Wildlife advocates argue species that have thrived under the law’s protection might again be threatened if taken off the list.

   “The frustration level is reaching the breaking point in many levels because of this act,” said Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “It’s nonsensical.”

   The Republican governor griped about swarms of endangered prairie dogs digging into golf courses. “They have   become so domesticated, they are just a pain,” he said.

   The discussion about overhauling the Endangered Species Act came on the second day of a two-day conference of the Western Governors Association. State executives from 19 states, plus the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, were invited to attend.

   Federal environmental officials acknowledged the law’s challenges and slow-paced evolution, but   largely aimed to rebut complaints and praise a conservation policy that seeks to protect nearly 2,000 species of birds, insects, fish, mammals, flowers and trees.

   “Does the act always work perfectly? No,” said Eileen Sobeck, the deputy assistant secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “Do the successes under the act outnumber the problems? I think they do.”

   With its plentiful plains and rich wildlife, endangered species protections remain a testy issue in the West.

   Hunters and ranchers, a powerful constituency in the Mountain West, have called for delisting recovering populations of certain species such as gray wolves and grizzlies. They contend that the federal policy affects the value and sovereignty of their land and threatens livestock. Western governors insist states, not federal regulators, should have authority over native species that affect local habitats and create business hurdles.
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