GarCo commish to Congress: Pass Species Act reform bill

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky on Tuesday testified before Congress in support of proposed reforms he says would bring more transparency to decisions related to the Endangered Species Act, while U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton also supported such changes.

Jankovsky was joined in testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee by Rob Roy Ramey II, a biologist who has worked with Garfield County on issues involving the greater sage-grouse, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing for protection under the act.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on Republican-crafted bills that would require things including making public the data used to make listing decisions; designating state, local and tribal information as being among the “best available data” considered by Fish and Wildlife in such decisions; and placing a $125-an-hour cap on fees awarded to attorneys prevailing in litigation under the act.

Jankovsky cited Garfield County’s difficulties getting detailed sage-grouse data behind mapping considered by the Bureau of Land Management in crafting a land-management plan in northwest Colorado to try to keep the sage-grouse from being listed.

The BLM initially has relied on Colorado Parks and Wildlife habitat mapping for the bird, but Garfield County says the mapping applies to flatter terrain and there’s far less Garfield sage-grouse habitat due to its ridge-and-valley nature.

If population and other data is made more available so people can look at it and respond to it, “it’s going to make a big difference to the local governments,” Jankovsky said.

“Information is power, data is power,” said Ramey, who said those who withhold that data maintain that power.

Tipton, R-Cortez, said Tuesday, “If ensuring a species’ well-being is truly the goal, there is absolutely no reason that this data should not be shared to ensure that it is scientifically sound and that efforts constructed around it are the most effective methods to preserve a species.”

Michael Bean, counselor to the assistant Interior Department secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, told the committee the department doesn’t support the bills in their current form.

Revealing certain data could result in collecting, disturbance and vandalism where species locations are identified, Bean testified.

He also said Fish and Wildlife can’t always consider data from states, counties and tribes to be the best available when information from these sources sometimes conflicts.

“None of these bills will actually lead to the recovery of more species,” committee member Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, said Tuesday.

He also predicted that the bills, if left unchanged, “will likely go the way of the Dodo bird.”

Ross Lane, director of the Western Values Project watchdog group, said by e-mail Tuesday that he questions Jankovsky’s commitment to transparency when Garfield County invested considerable resources into, and worked with oil and gas industry consultants on, an alternative sage-grouse plan that’s “destined for rejection” by Fish and Wildlife and the BLM.

“If the commissioner was truly serious about avoiding a devastating listing of the greater sage-grouse, he’d be working in good faith with stakeholders, not fighting them at every turn,” Lane said.


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