Western Governors Continue Focus on Species, Migration Corridors

Western Governors Continue Focus on Species, Migration Corridors

At their winter meeting, the Western Governors’ Association passed Policy Resolution 2021-04 Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act. The governors outline the importance of the federal-state relationship in species conservation including wildlife migration corridors and habitat while also noting that the states have primary authority over fish and wildlife. The resolution outlines the importance of collaborative efforts for species conservation through the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the need for states to play a greater role in the consultation process. For both species conservation and wildlife corridors, the resolution talks about the patchwork of land ownership in the West and the need to coordinate for voluntary conservation efforts with private landowners. For migration corridors and habitat, the governors note the successful partnerships underway through Secretarial Order 3362 and the State Action Plans that western states have developed.

Within the resolution, there are nine specific policy recommendations for species conservation. Notably, the first states: “Western Governors support all reasonable proactive management efforts to conserve species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to sustain populations of diverse wildlife and habitats, preclude the need to list a species under the ESA, and retain the West’s wildlife legacy for future generations. Western Governors also support initiatives that engage stakeholders to develop incentives for early, voluntary conservation measures to address multiple threats to species while preserving and enhancing western working landscapes.” Other recommendations focus on the need for states to be full partners in ESA decisions, use of the best available science be used in ESA decisions, funding to incentivize voluntary conservation efforts, and the need for conservation education and recreation programs to connect people with nature. Additionally, they recommend exploring the expanded use of detail positions between federal and state agencies to increase interagency coordination and familiarity with processes.

Regarding wildlife migration corridors and habitat there are seven specific recommendations. In particular, the western governors urge federal land management agencies to: “Support state and tribal efforts to identify key wildlife migration corridors and habitat in the West and engage in early and substantive consultation with Governors prior to the promulgation of any policy pertaining to the management of wildlife corridors and habitat.” They also encourage the federal government to maintain the financial investment in research and habitat through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game and Migration Corridors program. In addition, they focus on efforts to coordinate with state and federal departments of transportation, as well as planning of energy and recreation developments to maintain habitat connectivity.

The policy statement also notes: “Western Governors believe that any federal efforts to identify, regulate, or conserve wildlife migration corridors through administrative or legislative action must rely upon coordination and consultation with states and should advance collaborative, locally driven initiatives to conserve key wildlife corridors and habitat. Governors further encourage Congress and the Administration to support collaborative and locally developed initiatives through financial and technical assistance.”

February 16, 2021