Gov. Otter urges engagement, innovation to improve species conservation, ESA at Idaho workshop

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter welcomed participants to the Idaho workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Jan. 19 and urged them to be "willing to engage, to listen to the other side's point of view."

"Being part of the process, being part of the solution, and being seriously considered with our ideas is what matters and will continue to matter," said Gov. Otter. The governor spoke at the second regional workshop of the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead for the Western Governors' Association at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Gary Frazer, Assistant Director of Ecological Services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, highlighted the importance of engagement as well. "We can never stop learning, and we know we don't have all the answers, so we look forward to working with the Western Governors' Association on improving how the Act works."

Gov. Mead's initiative creates a mechanism for states to share best practices in species management, promote and elevate the role of states in species conservation efforts, and explore ways to improve the efficiency of the ESA.

Gov. Otter said the federal government has changed goals in the middle of collaborative efforts to protect endangered species. “In some cases they not only moved the goalposts, they moved the whole damn field,” Otter said.

Gov. Otter, like Gov. Mead before him, lamented the low rate (1.3%) for delisting of species under the ESA since its creation 42 years ago. "By any measure, that is a terrible success rate. To continue on with the same process is irresponsible. So I hope we can come up with an innovative process through which we can resolve this issue." Watch a video of Gov. Otter's remarks

Following is a look at other workshop sessions:

Role of State and Local Governments in Species Conservation and ESA Implementation: The panelists highlighted the need for consultation between stakeholders. Brenda Richards, the Treasurer of Owyhee County, noted a "one-size fits-all solution" does not work and that it is essential to consult counties because "nobody has more knowledge about that's going on the ground than local residents." Panelists: Brenda Richards, Treasurer, Owyhee County; Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator, Arizona Game and fish Department; Myles Culhane, Managing Counsel, Occidental Oil & Gas Corp.; Bob Brammer, Chief Operations Officer, Idaho Department of Lands Watch a video of the panel

Best Available ScienceRichard Valdez of SWCA noted that "best available science" is best done through process and not through definition. (Read Frankie Barnhill's story about the roundtable for KBSX, Boise State Public Radio) Panelists: Virgil Moore, Director, Idaho Fish and Game; John Tanaka, Associate Director, University of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station; Richard Valdez, Senior Science Advisor, SWCA; Michael Bogert, Managing Shareholder, Parsons Behle & Latimer Watch a video of the panel

Critical Habitat Designations: The panelists shared perspectives on designations, including the idea advanced by Bruce Farling, the Director of Trout Unlimited Montana, that critical habitat identification is crucial to determining the best way to recover imperiled species. Panelists: Bruce Farling, Director, Trout Unlimited Montana; Dan Dinning, Commissioner, Boundary County; Sam Eaton, Policy Advisor, Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation; Ann Forest Burns, Vice President, American Forest Resource Council; Trent Clark, Director of Government Affairs, Monsanto Watch a video of the panel

Recognition of Voluntary Conservation Efforts: The roundtable highlighted the enormity of these efforts, including the massive conservation undertaken for Greater sage-grouse, which included 41 Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and 23 Candidate Conservation Agreements in Wyoming, with 515,000 and 867,000 acres enrolled, respectively. Panelists: Will Whelan, Director of Government Relations, The Nature Conservancy Idaho; Tom Perry, Counsel, Marten Law; Brian Kelly, Consultant, Brian T. Kelly, LLC; Jim Magagna, Director, Wyoming Stock Growers Association; David Solem, Manager, South Columbia Basin Irrigation District Watch a video of the panel 

Landscape Level Conservation and Incentivizing Private Land Owners: The roundtable examined the comprehensive and flexible approach of landscape-level conservation. Panelists: Nada Culver, Senior Director, Agency Policy & Planning, The Wilderness Society; Kyle Tackett, District Conservationist, NRCS; Brett Dumas, Environmental Supervisor, Idaho Power Co.; Wyatt Prescott, Executive Vice President, Idaho Cattle Association Watch a video of the roundtable 

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

sign up for our newsletters