Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your invitation to address the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water, My name is Terry Cleveland. I am the Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department very much supports the original intent and purposes of the Endangered Species Act. However, our past experience with ESA has been that it is an unnecessarily onerous and expensive law, that listing decisions are often not supported by adequate science, and that it has not adequately promoted proactive conservation measures that could prevent the need for listings.
For example, grizzly bear management during recovery of that species has cost our Department an average of $1 million per year over the last 10 years. This includes the last several years when the bear had already met delisting criteria, but was not delisted, and therefore both the Section 9 restrictions and costs associated with them continued unnecessarily. The cost of federally-required monitoring will continue for another five years following delisting at a cost of approximately $400,000 per year. For wolves, assuming the State can agree with the level of conservation assurances required by the federal government, the cost of required monitoring following delisting is estimated at $750,000 per year, with no firm commitment by the federal government to reimburse those costs. If our Department has to absorb those costs, it will happen at the expense of other existing programs within our limited budget.
For Prebles mouse, the basic science supporting the existence of the subspecies was absent during the original listing of the mouse. Likewise, the supposed threats to the mouse’s existence were unverified. Yet the objections and input of the State and other stakeholders concerning the lack of scientific support for listing went unheeded for years. Finally, the State spent $60K to demonstrate that the mouse the Service was calling Prebles is not a valid subspecies and thus cannot be legally listed. The State and other stakeholders also spent an enormous amount of time collating the USFWS’s own data demonstrating the lack of threats for use in a delisting petition. There were similar examples of problems with inadequate information on basic science, current status, and supposed threats that ultimately removed mountain plovers and black-tailed prairie dogs from listing considerations, but only after considerable expense had already gone into planning what turned out to be unnecessary conservation efforts.
Our prediction is that, without significant changes in ESA implementation, species will continue to be listed in the future without sound science, without adequate efforts to proactively prevent listings, and without adequate State involvement. The number of listed species will simply continue to increase and exist as a regulatory club for anyone to use to influence land uses. The State actions associated with these listings will come at the cost of other State programs.
The Endangered Species Act does contain processes that allow for better implementation, as demonstrated by the proactive interstate efforts regarding the Colorado River cutthroat trout and the Bonneville cutthroat trout that were responsible for preventing those species from being listed. In these cases, a better alternative to listing was implemented. The current PECE policy is an excellent example of an ESA process that can be used to great advantage in dealing with species of concern prior to invoking the full legal force of ESA. There are also existing policies within ESA that call for increased collaboration with State agencies regarding consideration of ESA actions, and if properly implemented, these could dramatically improve ESA process. These processes and policies need to be emphasized.
Our recommendations for improving ESA include:
· State wildlife agencies as equal partners in judging the science used in ESA decisions at each step of the listing and delisting processes, and in formulating species management actions for those decisions that already rely heavily on state agencies to implement. This would assure better working relationships with states, and would add the credibility of an on-the-ground management agency with local experience to the current system of relying only on a federal regulatory agency for decision-making.
· There should be an increased focus on proactive efforts to prevent listings. For example, with the sage grouse, the considerable proactive conservation efforts currently being formulated must be recognized and supported by the Fish and Wildlife Service as more beneficial to the species than a listing would be, as was the case for the Colorado River and Bonneville cutthroat trout proactive efforts.
· The ESA Section 10 program with its “no surprises” policies, and an ecosystem conservation approach of simultaneously benefiting groups of species, should both be emphasized. These efforts would, in total, encourage proactive ESA work, demonstrate obvious benefits to the State and private landowners of implementing that work, and provide benefits to large groups of species instead of one species at a time.
· Most critically, increased federal funding is needed to support State work. ESA is a national law and well supported in principle by the American people, and it is fitting that federal funding is used to support it.
Mr. Chairman and the Committee; Thank you. We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts. That concludes my testimony today. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.