Opening Statement by Senator Chafee
Hearing on July 7, 1998

Good morning. We have a tall order of business before us today. We will hear testimony on eight bills relating to the conservation of fish and wildlife. While all of these bills seek to further U.S. conservation efforts here and abroad, they do so through a variety of mechanisms, including financial, administrative, scientific and enforcement programs.

There is a broad spectrum of views on these bills, ranging from avid support to avid opposition, and the witnesses for today's hearing will cover this spectrum. Most of the witnesses will speak on several bills, given that their expertise covers different bills on related topics. I hope that the witnesses will also provide recommendations for changes that they believe would improve the bills.

With the array of bills before us, I would like to spend a moment summarizing each of them. The first is S. 2094, the Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act of 1998, introduced by Senator Allard and cosponsored by me. This bill would authorize revenues from the sale of items derived from fish and wildlife to go to the Fish and Wildlife Service, rather than to the General Treasury. It would also allow the Service to use the revenues to cover the costs of shipping, storing and disposing these items, which includes loans to schools, museums, zoos and Native Americans for educational and religious purposes. The bill would not change existing law, which prohibits the sale of items made from threatened or endangered species, marine mammals, and migratory birds.

The second bill, S. 2244, the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership Enhancement Act of 1998, was introduced by me and cosponsored by 14 of my colleagues. This bill promotes volunteer activities, individual donations, partnership programs and education programs connected with the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Refuge System has a long history of relying on volunteers, with about 25,000 volunteers currently performing 20 percent of all work on the Refuge System.

The third topic relates to protection of rhinos and tigers. There are three bills pending before the Committee, two entitled the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act (S. 361 and H.R. 2807), and one (H.R. 3113) to reauthorize the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994. Introduced by Senator Jeffords, S. 361 would amend the ESA to prohibit the imports and exports of any product labeled as containing species listed as endangered under the ESA or listed on Appendix I of CITES.

Senator Jeffords has expressed a desire to conform his bill to the House bill, H.R. 2807. This bill would amend the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act, rather than the ESA, to prohibit the sale, import, or export of products intended for human consumption and claiming to contain rhino or tiger parts. In addition, H.R. 2807 would provide for civil and criminal penalties for any person violating this prohibition, and for authority for forfeitures of prohibited products and of equipment used to carry out prohibited activities. H.R. 3113 would reauthorize the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994 through 2004 at the current authorization level of $10 million per year. The current authorization expires at the end of fiscal year 2000.

The fourth topic is S. 263, the Bear Protection Act, introduced by Senator McConnell and cosponsored by 52 Senators. The bill would prohibit imports and exports of bear viscera, and products that contain or claim to contain bear viscera. It would also prohibit the sale, purchase or transport in interstate commerce of such products or viscera. Lastly, the bill would require the Administration to undertake multilateral discussions on this issue and to attempt to establish coordinated efforts to protect bears.

The fifth topic is S. 1970, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1998. Introduced by Senator Abraham, S. 1970 would require the Secretary of the Interior to establish a program to provide financial assistance for projects to promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds in Latin America and the Caribbean. Federal funds for projects would not exceed 33 percent, and at least 50 percent of the non-Federal share would need to be in cash. The bill would authorize appropriations of $4 million annually for three years to carry out the program.

The last bill is S. 659, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1997, introduced by Senator Glenn. S. 659 would provide authority to implement recommendations of the Great Lakes Fishery Restoration and Study report to Congress. This study was mandated by Congress in 1990, in an effort to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. The bill would establish a matching grants program, with 25 percent of the cost of a project to be paid by non-Federal sources. The bill would reauthorize the original 1990 law through 2002 at $5 million annually.

The witnesses are divided into three panels. The first panel will be John Rogers, Deputy Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who will speak on all the bills. The second panel consists of three conservation organizations, who will speak to the bear protection bill, the rhino/tiger bills, and the revenue enhancement bill. The third panel consists of witnesses who have a specific interest in one or more of the bills, including the bear protection bill, the refuge volunteers bill and the Great Lakes bill. We also have written testimony from Senator Abraham on S. 1970, Senator McConnell on S. 263, and Senator Glenn on S. 659.

Thank you all for being here. We look forward to your testimony.