A former Wyoming Governor joined a Wyoming U.S. Senator Wednesday in Washington for a hearing on the Endangered Species Act. Republican U.S. Senator John Barrasso, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, welcomed Wyoming’s former Democratic Governor David Freudenthal to the committee.

Gov. Freudenthal was testifying before the committee at an oversight hearing on “Modernization of the Endangered Species Act”, focusing on the need to modernize the ESA to improve recovery rates and lead to the eventual delisting of recovered species.

According to a release from Barrasso’s office, Wyoming is a leader in addressing issues associated with the ESA. Current Gov. Matt Mead has worked with other western states to develop an Endangered Species Act policy for the Western Governors Association, including specific recommendations for improvements to species conservation and to the ESA.

“Governor Freudenthal served as U.S. Attorney for Wyoming from 1994 to 2001 and before that, as an attorney in private practice,” said Barrasso in his opening remarks. “Governor Freudenthal has returned to his roots and currently serves as an attorney providing legal counsel on domestic and international environmental and natural resources issues. In each of these positions, Governor Freudenthal has accumulated a wealth of experience with the Endangered Species Act.”

Governor Freudenthal called for an update of the listing process in his written testimony, noting that often petitioners fail to adequately investigate the threat level against a species, leaving the government to spend valuable resources to study and determine endangerment. “To date, Wyoming has spent almost $110,000 in state funds, funds that could have been directed to on-the-ground habitat work to conserve mule deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife, to complete the inadequate homework of the petitioner,” said Governor Freudenthal.

Freudenthal also cautioned against the common practice of over-including species on the list that may not actually be endangered. “A second, but certainly related factor at play in this context is the ‘precautionary principle,’ which encourages movement towards listing based on the absence of data.”

Freudenthal stressed that de-listing needs to be a priority to aid in the recovery of endangered species. “De-listing has not been a priority for the USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Manpower is usually cited as the reason for delay but the process could be simplified by specifying, at the time of listing, the requirements to delist and adhering to them absent a rulemaking or new petition that presents information to suggest that delisting is not warranted.”

While the governor applauded the purpose of the ESA, he pointed to its burdensome effects that can prevent effective species recovery. “While very noble in intent, the ESA has matured into full blown, unfunded federal mandate. State recreation agencies and game and fish departments are stretched to the breaking point by the costs of managing fish, wildlife and recreation resources. One of the unintended consequences of passage of the ESA in 1973 was severely taxing these already stretched resources.”

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