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Date: January 11, 2005
To: NWRA Members, Congressional and Federal Staff, Washington Representatives
From: Peter Adams, Legislative Assistant



Joel Harris, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Bill Owens (R-CO), shared his views with NWRA on the Endangered Species Act Summit that took place in San Diego, California on December 3-4, 2004. Below is a transcript of the January 3, 2005 interview:

NWRA: The Western Governors’ Association held an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Summit December 3-4 in San Diego. This Meeting was largely developed through the efforts of Colorado Governor Bill Owens and, of course, your own tireless work to develop a more effective ESA. What can you tell us about the summit? Was the Governor pleased with the participation of the various stakeholders?

JOEL HARRIS: Yes, the Governor was pleased with the participation of stakeholders, he thought we had a substantive discussion about some of the real issues around the ESA, and I think we heard a consensus about the things in the ESA that need to be improved, most notably the recovery of species. I think you won’t find anyone who will argue with the act’s fairly poor track record of recovering species, and that significant things need to be done to improve the recovery of species under the act, so I think that’s a very productive point of consensus. I also think there was a lot of agreement from folks on all sides of the aisle that states could be given a lot more responsibility, and a much greater role in administering the act, and I think that’s an important point of consensus for everyone involved. So I think, overall, the Governor was pleased with the tone of the discussion, the substance of the discussion, and the participants in the discussion.

NWRA: To what degree were recovery goals discussed in the summit, and do you feel that the other governors that attended were supportive of Governor Owens’ views?

MR. HARRIS: Yes, we had a plenary discussion entirely focused on recovery. We had Greg Waltcher, the former executive director of the Department of Natural Resources in Colorado, who discussed our approach to pursuing recovery goals from the feds, and we had a very good reception from that, both from Jamie Clark, I believe from Defenders of Wildlife, and the other governors as well, Governor Martz, the outgoing Governor of Montana; Governor Lingle, the Governor of Hawaii; a number of governors were supportive of greater accountability and measurable objectives for recovery of species under the ESA.

NWRA: What is Governor Owens’ plan for the future as far advancing the cause of improving the ESA?

MR. HARRIS: Well, I think we’ve done a lot just to kind of reconvene the conversation, and our hope is that we’ll see some legislation in the Senate and the House, and the governors will have an opportunity to respond to that. I think we’ve put our positions out there in terms of wanting to see some recovery goals up front in the listing process, wanting to see better standards for science, wanting to see a greater role for states in administering the act. So I think there is an opportunity for legislators in both chambers to develop and come up with legislation that accomplishes those ends.

NWRA: How can NWRA members in Colorado and the 16 other Western states help you?

MR. HARRIS: I think they can do a couple things. One, I think they can go to there congressmen and senators and tell them that this is an important issue, that they really think that there is a way to provide for the water and property rights of property owners in the West and achieve species recovery. They can also tell their members of Congress that the Act needs some reform, and that there are policy measures available to achieve those reforms. So I think one, just being a vocal presence with your Members of Congress, and two continuing to talk to the governors in the other Western states to say this is an important issue to NWRA. I think that will go a long way to keeping this issue on the table.





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