The leader of the Western Governors Association says the nation needs to change the way it protects endangered species because the current practice is bogged down in lawsuits and weakened by mistrust.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said Wednesday the problem is nationwide and he hopes to build bipartisan support for changes in the federal Endangered Species Act, the primary tool for protecting species on the brink of extinction.

He stopped short of suggesting specific changes but said years-long legal battles over protecting wolves and other animals frustrate landowners, local governments and industry and leave other species unprotected.

Mead, a Republican, directed the Western Governors Association to review how well the law is working. He spoke Wednesday to wildlife managers, conservationists and business interests meeting in Denver as part of that review.

Wildlife managers, conservationists and business interests are meeting in Denver as the Western Governors Association looks for ways to change the way endangered species are protected.

They'll spend Wednesday and Thursday talking about the states' role in deciding what species get protection under the federal Endangered Species Act and how conservation is paid for, among other topics.

It's part of a review of the Endangered Species Act initiated by the chairman of the Western Governors Association, Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming.

Endangered species decisions are bitterly contested in the West because they can restrict the energy industry and agriculture. Recent debates centered on grizzly bears, wolves and the greater sage grouse.