Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovksy testifies for Endangered Species Act changes
WASHINGTON — Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was among those testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, suggesting improvements to the way the Endangered Species Act views local and state conservation measures.
“Our primary concern is that the policies the Bureau of Land Management is attempting to put in place do not fit our unique topography and will fail, destroy our local economy and create the need for litigation,” Jankovsky said during a committee oversight hearing.
The hearing, titled “Defining Species Conservation Success: Tribal, State, and Local Stewardship vs. Federal Courtroom Battles and Sue-and-Settle Practices,” was organized by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who chairs the Natural Resources Committee.
Witnesses, including Jankovsky and several from other western states, touted the success of state, local and tribal conservation efforts, which they said are often overlooked in protections sought through the Endangered Species Act, according to a press release issued by Hastings’ committee office.
They also underscored the need for meaningful reforms to federal species protection policy that take those local and state plans into account.
“It is critical that agency plans be consistent with local plans,” said Jankovsky, who has led the push for the BLM to recognize Garfield County’s greater sage-grouse conservation plan as the agency considers measures to prevent the bird from being added to the federal Endangered Species List.
Parts of western Garfield County are prime sage-grouse habitat, but those areas also overlap with BLM lands that are leased for natural gas and other resource development.
In his testimony, Jankovsky stressed the importance of local species conservation management and criticized “top-down federal policies” that he said are doing more harm than good, according to the press release from Hastings’ office.
Those policy clashes often end up in court, and can stand in the way of recovery efforts, said Chairman Hastings in his press release.
“Fortunately, state, local and tribal governments and many private landowners not only care about species conservation, they’re doing it now, and in a manner that responsibly respects local economic activities, private property and other uses,” Hastings said.
Tuesday’s hearing was the first in a series of hearings intended to examine possible Endangered Species Act reforms that would honor those local and state conservation plans.
Others testifying before the committee Tuesday were Tyler Powell, Oklahoma’s deputy secretary of environment; Kathryn Brigham, chairwoman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Washington state; and Steve Ferrell, Wildlife and Endangered Species Policy Advisor to Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
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