Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Advocating For Reforms To The Endangered Species Act

daugaardheaderDaugaardAdvocating For Reforms To The Endangered Species Act
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a Western Governors Association trip to Washington, D.C. Along with the governors of Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and Utah, I visited with federal officials about issues impacting South Dakota and other western states. One of the topics we discussed was the Endangered Species Act.

A recent poll from the Morning Consult indicates that the majority of Americans believe the Endangered Species Act (ESA) needs to be reformed. The poll also found that less than one-third of Americans think the federal government should take the lead on endangered species.

Allowing states to play a more active role in the administration of the ESA just makes sense. In a state like South Dakota where 80 percent of the land is privately owned, it should be standard practice to gather input from landowners early in the process. They know the land better than anyone and endangered species decisions can directly impact their livelihoods. It’s also easier for states to work with landowners once an ESA decision has been made.

Unfortunately, state governments are routinely left out of the conversation when it comes to ESA decisions. Time and time again, we have been impacted by unfounded listings and a lack of implementation at the federal level.

Our state’s experience with the Topeka Shiner listing is a prime example. Habitat and population problems don’t exist in South Dakota for this type of fish; but because those problems persist in other states, the species is listed as endangered in our state. It has been 16 years since the Topeka Shiner was listed, and we are still waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a complete recovery plan for the species. How can we aim for recovery, if we don’t know what is the goal?

Compare that to the Sage Grouse. In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Sage Grouse as “warranted but precluded.” Western states joined with the Department of Interior to implement measures to prevent an endangered listing of the species. States developed their own conservation plans and local governments became involved in the efforts. Just last month, the Department of Interior announced it would not place the bird on the endangered species list.

In South Dakota, we value the goal of improving and maintaining habitat. Rather than viewing states as unnecessary hurdles, I hope the federal government will come to see the states as partners in accomplishing this goal.