FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BEFORE THE SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
S. 1970 the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act
S. 2094, the Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act
S. 361 and H.R. 2807, the Rhino Tiger, Product Labeling Acts
H.R. 3113, the Rhino Tiger Conservation Reauthorization Act
S. 659, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act
S. 2244, the NWR System Volunteer and Partnership Enhancement Act
S. 263, the Bear Protection Act
July 7, 1998
S. 1970, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1998
Let's begin with S. 1970, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1998. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Senator Abraham for his support and sponsorship of S. 1970.
The Service_through 4 bilateral treaties_has responsibility for maintaining healthy populations of some 778 species of migratory nongame birds and 58 species of migratory game birds, approximately 350 species of which (the so-called Neotropical migrants") migrate between the Caribbean/Latin America and North America. Migratory birds continue to face enormous and increasing challenges. Despite our current efforts, many populations of migratory birds continue to decline, some quite markedly. For example, 124 species of migratory birds are currently on the list of Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern. If population trajectories of these birds stay on their present course, the next place for these species will be the Endangered Species Act, or worse yet, possible extinction. Ninety species of North American birds presently are listed on ESA. Mexico presently lists some 390 bird species as endangered, threatened, vulnerable, or rare. These current and projected future losses have far-reaching economic, social, ecological, and recreational implications.
Birds are important to us for many reasons_whether we reside in North America, Latin America, or the Caribbean. Birdwatching and other forms of bird-related recreation are tremendous pastimes in North America, with a growing interest in the Caribbean and Latin American countries. Nearly 70 million Americans spend more than $20 billion each year participating in bird-related recreation. Birdwatching is America's fastest growing major form of outdoor recreation. Birds prevent billions of dollars of economic losses each year by eating cropdamaging insect pests and weed seeds in North and Latin America and the Caribbean. They are important pollinators of many commercially valuable plants. Neotropical migratory birds are thus an important component of biological diversity in the Western Hemisphere. The American public expects the Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance its efforts to conserve migratory birds in support of these vast economic, ecological, and social benefits.
The Service and our international partners have recognized for many years that only a well-coordinated strategy and set of actions in breeding and wintering grounds and stopover sites can prevent populations of migratory species from declining. Neotropical migratory birds spend approximately 5 months of the year at Caribbean/Latin American wintering sites, 4 months at North American breeding sites, and 3 months en route to these areas during spring and autumn migrations. The nature of this "shared trust" resource makes migratory bird management a true international challenge. The greatest challenge is to halt the precipitous declines of many of these species_due in major part to habitat destruction and degradation. S. 1970 is a major step in the right direction in helping to halt and even reverse this trend. The legislation will aid in the international conservation and management of neotropical migratory birds. Severely declining bird species are causing grave concerns among natural resource managers and the public in both Caribbean/Latin American countries and in North America. S. 1970 will help the U.S. and our international partners reverse species declines, conserving bird populations before they reach the point of requiring protection under the ESA. Equally as important, the legislation will help keep our "common birds common," preventing the expenditure of enormous amounts of tax dollars and precluding the likely legal and public relations battles that surround listing issues.
Mr. Chairman, this legislation goes a long way in promoting the effective conservation and management of neotropical migratory birds. We do, however, have several recommended changes that will make this initiative even more effective in sustaining populations of these declining species, in better collaborating with our international partners, and in garnering a groundswell of support both in North America and in the Caribbean/Latin America.
As currently worded, the legislation directs attention to these long-distance travelers during only one part of their annual cycle. This premise is inconsistent with the unanimous belief among scientists that conservation actions are necessary in both Latin America/Caribbean and in North America if the population problems of neotropical migrants are to be stemmed. By amending Section 3 of S. 1970 to include both U.S.-based projects as well as those in the Caribbean and in Latin America, conservation benefits will be maximized in wintering, breeding, and migration areas. Projects in the U.S. should be for the same species for which projects are being undertaken in Latin America and the Carribean, thus ensuring that the projects are complimentary. A multi-national effort will provide an excellent opportunity to highlight to the American public the importance of an international approach to conservation. This is a win-win situation for the birds, the public, North America, and our international partners.
In the Findings section of the Bill, we suggest including a discussion of existing initiatives that are working to improve the conservation of neotropical migrants. The language should include a clarification that the aim of this legislation is to link, bolster, and augment these conservation efforts rather than create new and separate initiatives. For example, numerous public-private bird conservation partnerships have been developed during the past few years but, because of shortfalls, have not yet maximized their contributions to bird conservation. Partners in Flight, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a colonial waterbird conservation plan, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, marshbird and raptor monitoring action plans_and thousands of North American private and public partners that these initiatives bring with them_all stand to benefit from this legislation. The infrastructure and mechanisms are already in place for North American bird conservation. S. 1970 can provide the critical stimulus to deliver this conservation on the ground in very tangible ways.
S. 1970 can become a perfect "complement" for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, which has funded well over $1 billion of wetland habitat restoration and enhancement projects in Mexico, the United States, and Canada during the past decade. Collaborative efforts with the NAWMP would allow S. 1970 to "partner up" with a program which has a tremendous amount of leverage and is anxious to implement habitat projects that complement_not duplicate_the waterfowl focus of its habitat conservation efforts. In addition, because nontropical migratory birds share habitats with many other species, this legislation's true impact will go far beyond just neotropical migratory birds, including resident species in North and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Regarding cost sharing in Section 4(e) of the Bill, we recommend the requirement that a nonfederal U.S. cash match be obligatory only for those projects submitted by U.S. entities. Projects submitted directly by Latin American and Caribbean institutions would have the option of generating the required two-thirds match locally in either hard currency or in in-kind support. This approach will better promote the long-term sustainability of projects in host countries and will facilitate the participation of small, but dedicated, local entities with limited funding or other resources.
Concerning Committee membership in Section 5, we recommend expanding the Committee to include no more than eight additional voting members, at least half of whom represent nonfederal entities actively involved in bird conservation. Two of these additional voting members should be the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development as permanent members, to ensure full coordination with U.S. foreign policy and USAID's ongoing $30 million per year programs to preserve biodiversity and habitat in Latin America and the Carribean. The remainder of these positions would be rotated every four years. We also propose that the number of non-voting members be raised to a maximum of three from Latin America and the Caribbean to provide technical expertise for proposals originating from tropical locations. Such regional representation will also help to orient the Committee to the realities of implementing projects in this region. Consideration should also be given to involving Canada as an observer/non-voting member of this Committee. Also within Section 5, concerning the duties of this Committee, we recommend adding the function that grant processes be coordinated and facilitated among entities involved in neotropical bird conservation.
To heighten the interest in this initiative and to increase the number of eligible partners through Federal matching funds, we suggest increasing the authorizing appropriations ceiling in Section 9 from $4 million to $8 million for FY 1999-2001. I would note that funding for this program will be appropriated to the Department of the Interior and not the U.S. Agency for International Development's or the Department of State. As you are certainly aware, the conservation needs of migratory birds are great and we are confident that our private and State partners will show a tremendous interest in participating in this program.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, while we support S. 1970, we believe that our recommended changes will substantially strengthen and improve this Bill.
S. 2094, the Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act
The next bill on the Committee's agenda is S. 2094, the Fish and Wildlife Revenue Enhancement Act. The Administration supports strongly S. 2094 which would enable the Secretary of the Interior to more effectively utilize the proceeds of sales of certain items. Enactment of this bill will allow more efficient use of the proceeds received from the sale of abandoned or forfeited wildlife parts and products which are not endangered or threatened species, and do not include migratory birds or marine mammals. It would authorize all proceeds of such sales to be used for rewards and other incidental expenses as provided for in the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The use of these funds would also be expanded to pay the costs associated with shipping, storage, and disposal of wildlife items.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with enforcing several laws that protect a wide variety of fish and wildlife species. The Service has numerous outreach programs to educate the public about these laws, and Service personnel routinely answer questions and help those who seek assistance to comply with the law. Unfortunately, violations do occur. Wildlife parts and products that are the fruits of violations of Federal wildlife laws are subject to being abandoned or forfeited to the United States. The majority of these items are shipped to the National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver, Colorado, for storage and disposal. Those items not shipped to the Repository are retained at the location of the seizure and normally used for scientific and educational purposes.
Currently, there are approximately 450,000 wildlife items at the Repository, and many additional items stored in warehouses across the country. The Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to dispose of these items in a manner that he deems appropriate, including, but not limited to, loan, gift, sale, or destruction. The Service's priority is to donate or loan these wildlife items to scientific and educational organizations. Recipients include museums where they are displayed to educate the public, universities where they are used for research, and elementary schools where teachers use them to help students learn about our world's wildlife resources. A wide variety of wildlife items are provided to schools for use in their environmental education projects through the Service's "Cargo for Conservation" and "Suitcase for Survival" programs.
Between July 1, 1995, and February 1, 1997, the National Wildlife Property Repository received 553 boxes of forfeited or abandoned items consisting of 117,000 individual pieces of wildlife parts or products. During this period, 271 educational kits, containing 5,706 items, were sent to various scientific and educational organizations. These items were shipped at no cost to the recipient.
Of the 450,000 wildlife items now in the Service's inventory of property that has been forfeited or abandoned to the United States, some 200,000 are surplus to the needs of scientific and educational programs and could legally be sold at auction. These potentially "salable" items do not include migratory birds, eagles, threatened or endangered species, species listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or marine mammals -- all of which are protected from such commercialization. It has taken about 10 years for this stock of surplus wildlife items to accumulate. Approximately 10 percent of these items have been forfeited to the United States pursuant to a criminal or civil action related to a specific violation of Federal wildlife laws. The remaining 90 percent were voluntarily abandoned to the United States by the alleged defendant(s) to avoid involvement in a proposed forfeiture action.
We estimate that an auction of these backlogged, forfeited and abandoned items would generate over $1 million in proceeds. There are, however, insufficient appropriated funds to pay the 14 percent auctioneer commission, or other expenses related to such an auction. Currently, the Service cannot pay these costs from auction proceeds. Both the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act authorize sums received from the sale of forfeited property to be used to pay for rewards or for the cost of storage of wildlife pending disposition of civil or criminal proceedings. No wildlife statute addresses the use of proceeds from the sale of abandoned property, so these funds are submitted to the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts and are not available for program operations. The Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 gives the Secretary of the Interior the authority to sell forfeited and abandoned items, but it is silent as to how the proceeds from the sales may be used.
If enacted, S. 2094 would accomplish two necessary functions. First, it would direct all proceeds from the sale of surplus wildlife property to the reward and incidental expense account, which is authorized by both the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. Currently, only the proceeds from the sales of forfeited wildlife property are deposited in this account. S. 2094 would authorize proceeds from the sale of abandoned items to also be deposited in the reward and incidental expense account.
Second, S. 2094 would expand the uses of the Reward and Incidental Expense Account to include authority to pay costs associated with storage, shipping, and processing of fish, wildlife, plants, and other property that have been forfeited or abandoned to the United States. This account currently may be used only to (1) pay rewards to persons who furnish information that leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for any violation of either the Lacey or Endangered Species Acts or regulations issued thereunder, and (2) cover the costs incurred by any person providing temporary care for any fish, wildlife, or plant pending the disposition of any criminal or civil proceeding alleging a violation of either Act with respect to that fish, wildlife, or plant. Authorized costs that could be paid from this account would be expanded to include: (a) shipping of such items from one location to another; (b) storage, inventory, and security of such items; (c) appraisal of such items; (d) sale or other disposal of such items, including auctioneer expenses; (e) payment of any valid lien against said property; and (f) processing and shipping of eagles and other migratory birds to Native Americans.
Another benefit of enacting S. 2094 would be the authority for the Service to use the proceeds from the sale of these items to pay for processing and shipping of eagles and other migratory birds to Native Americans. The Service recognizes its trust responsibility to Native Americans and the need to accommodate their religious beliefs, which include the use of eagles and other protected species for religious purposes. Over a thousand dead eagles are received annually by the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado. Most have been either shot, electrocuted, died while being cared for by a rehabilitation facility, or hit by a vehicle. In 1996, the National Eagle Repository filled 1,320 requests from Native Americans for eagles (996), eagle feathers (82), and other captors (242). These eagles are processed and shipped to Native Americans to be used for religious purposes. The Service supplies boxes for shipping and dry ice, and the birds are shipped at no cost to Native Americans.
Mr. Chairman, we believe this bill, if enacted, would allow us to operate more efficiently two important programs: distribution of wildlife property to scientific and educational institutions and the distribution of eagles to Native Americans for religious purposes.
H.R. 3113, the Reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994 S. 361 and H.R. 2807, the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act
Next. I'll turn to H.R. 3113, the Reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, and S. 361 and H.R. 2807, the Senate and House bills for the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act. The Department strongly supports the reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act through the year 2004 as passed by the House on March 30, 1998. We also support the enactment of the product labeling legislation as passed by the House on April 28, 1998. We appreciate the House's support and passage of these two bills and commend the Congress for its commitment and continuous support to conserve these important endangered species. While we are sympathetic to the objectives of S. 361 as introduced by Senator Jeffords and supported by eight cosponsors, we believe that it would be more practical to adopt the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act as passed by the House.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to address a subject of international importance, the drastic decline of rhino and tiger populations in Africa and Asia, due in large part to poaching for the traditional medicine trade. It is clear that we would not be able to turn this situation around without aggressive action on two fronts: expanded assistance to range countries to build their capacity to conserve rhinos, tigers, and their essential habitats; and concerted international pressure to halt the terrible trade in rhino and tiger parts and products.
I note with great satisfaction that these are also exactly the areas covered by the legislation which you have asked me to address today, and that we are truly building a bipartisan consensus to continue the U.S. leadership role in conservation of these magnificent but imperiled species. Today I would like to summarize for you some of the important actions we have already undertaken for rhino and tiger conservation, and outline the reasons why there is an urgent need for more action -- action which will be enormously enhanced by the legislation you have put forward today.
The Interior Department, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has had a long history of proactive programs on behalf of endangered species and their habitats in Asia and Africa. The Service's two decades of conservation efforts in India and South Asia, for example, emphasizing local institutional development and training, greatly facilitated local wildlife researchers and mangers protecting their resources more effectively. However, prior to 1994, this effort was chronically underfunded, particularly for programs outside of India, with available resources falling far short of the conservation needs. In Africa, the Service had built a successful program for elephant conservation, assisting a number of countries under the African Elephant Conservation Fund, but that program could at best produce only indirect benefits for African rhinos, despite the fact that rhino populations were in far more desperate straits than elephants.
Let me summarize what we know of the situation facing our world's remaining tiger and rhino populations.
The situation with most of the world's remaining rhinos in Africa and Asia is indeed very serious. Poaching for rhino horn is the major threat for all five species, and habitat degradation is also a significant threat for the Asian species which live in tropical rainforests. All three species of Asian rhinos are in danger of extinction, two critically so. The total population numbers for all three Asian species combined may in fact be less than the number of black rhinos remaining in Africa. in spite of the fact that the decline of the African species has received much more publicity over the last decade.
While the overall paucity of rhino numbers is one factor of concern, another is their distribution. The Javan rhino is the rarest, with fewer than an estimated 100 individuals surviving. Most are in a single protected area in Indonesia, with a few more in an unprotected area in Vietnam. Although the Sumatran rhino numbers may be slightly larger, at 250-450 animals, its situation is considered the most critical, because of its fragmented distribution in small pockets of Sumatra, Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah. Tiny remnants may remain in Sarawak, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, but if they still exist at all their viability is very low. The Indian rhino was once in the same condition as the other Asian rhinos, but a vigorous effort by governments in India and Nepal has succeeded in increasing its numbers to over 2000 animals. However, this species is still under serious threat, particularly from poaching, and increased protection is still needed to ensure its survival.
In Africa, the situation for the black rhino and the Northern white rhino is similar. Over the past few decades, black rhino populations have declined by at least 96 percent, due to poaching for the trade in traditional medicines and dagger handles. The Northern white rhino has been reduced to nine individuals in zoos and a wild population of no more than 30 individuals in a single national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Only the Southern white rhino in South Africa is prospering; here, intensive protection and management have brought its numbers in the wild to almost 8,000.
Wild tigers are arguably in even worse peril. The Cat Specialist Group of the IUCN-World Conservation Union has assembled information from government sources and independent specialists in tiger range countries about the status of the world's wild tiger population. Their best estimate -- given the secretive nature of tigers and the lack of resources in range countries to conduct accurate surveys -- is that there are no more than 5,000 to 7,500 remaining tigers. There are no comparable scientific data from earlier times, but with suitable habitat and prey the tiger is a prolific hunter and breeder, and there were undoubtedly many tens of thousands of tigers up to a century ago. Unfortunately, since then, loss of tiger habitat, reduction in prey populations, and deliberate tiger killing have taken a terrible toll: three of the recognized subspecies of tigers have become extinct, and the remaining five subspecies have come under severe threat. During this same time period, human populations have increased from about 1.5 billion to nearly six billion, resulting in extensive conversion of forest for human use, loss of tiger habitat, and a steep decline of tigers and their prey. Furthermore, over the last decade, poaching and illegal trade -- driven by the demand for bones and other parts of the tiger for the oriental medicine market -- have become an increasing threat.
In most of its 14 range countries, the tiger has adequate legal protection on paper. International commerce in tigers and their products is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and Laos is the only one of the 14 range countries not a Party to CITES. Even the principal consumers, China, Taiwan and South Korea, have banned trade -- after strong pressure from the United States. However, despite these existing national and international legal mechanisms, the enforcement is sometimes weak or nonexistent, due to a combination of factors including poor communication and coordination, lack of local governmental support, inadequate or no local infrastructure, funds, personnel, or equipment.
While the status of tigers and many rhino populations is bleak, the rhino situations in South Africa and India give us some reasons for optimism. Where governments and private conservation organizations have made a serious commitment to conservation, these animals can survive and Prosper. To accomplish this, however, they need our help. This is the kind of help made possible by the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act.
Reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act
The Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994 -- patterned after the African Elephant Conservation Act, which has made an enormous contribution to restoring elephant populations -- is a clear indication that the American people are concerned with the fate of tigers and rhinos as endangered species. It assigned responsibility for implementation to the Department of the Interior, in consultation with the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, for undertaking a rhino and tiger conservation program. Within the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was given the lead to administer the Act, because of its twenty years of experience in administering programs in Asia and Africa. The first Congressional appropriation to the fund was for $200,000 in FY 1996; this amount was doubled to $400,000 in FY 1997 and another $400,000 was appropriated in FY 1998.
To initiate this new program, the Fish and Wildlife Service sent out a call for proposals to an extensive mailing list of potential cooperators, developed from its long experience with regional and range country agencies and organizations in Asia and Africa, including CITES partners and the CITES Secretariat. The Act gave clear guidance that priority was to be given to proposals which directly supported and enhanced wild rhinoceros and tiger populations and which included matching funds. A review panel composed of representatives from the Service and the Agency for International Development -- a very beneficial partnership -- was set up to evaluate proposals received and recommend the awarding of funds.
During the 1996-1997 grant cycle, 68 proposals were submitted for consideration, and 77 new proposals have been received thus far in FY 1998. Of the total 145 proposals received, 30 have so far been funded in 10 range countries in Africa and Asia, at a cost of $582,000 disbursed or committed. Another 25 grant applicants have been provided suggestions about how their proposals can be modified so that they might meet the criteria for approval.
This is a small grant program, but it is amazing how much even a small amount of money can mean to our partners in other countries. The simple act of providing boots, raincoats, radios, and basic training can make an enormous difference in the ability of rangers in India or Tanzania to undertake effective monitoring and anti-poaching patrols. Something more intangible -- but often even more important -- is the boost to their morale when they realize that we the United States care enough to help them. Some examples of current projects, and what they mean to rhino and tiger range countries:
In India, the Fund is providing clothing, equipment, and radio networks to help guards stop poaching in Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora, Orang, and Laokhowa wildlife sanctuaries in Assam. While the Assam rhino conservation program is considered one of the best in the country, the lack of even the most basic protective clothing and equipment is illustrative of what is needed in many countries if we are to win the war against poaching. Project Manager Anne Wright reports that the new equipment provided by the Fund has given hope and encouragement for guards working long and dangerous assignments in difficult terrain. She intends to broaden this initial effort by obtaining critical transportation equipment and developing programs among local villagers to increase awareness and encourage reporting of illegal activity.
In Viet Nam, where tiger habitats are highly fragmented and degraded, the Fund is helping researchers map areas such as Phuoc Son/Tra My Reserve, which is populated by ethnic minorities and possibly up to 30 tigers. Tigers which kill livestock are in turn killed by the villagers to protect their herds or profit from poaching. This collaborative project will assess the tigers' presence in the reserve and surrounding forest and develop a model for reducing conflicts between human land use and tiger conservation.
In Tanzania, extensive poaching has fragmented and reduced the Tanzanian black rhino population to less than 100. The Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Africa, may be the last hope for survival of the black rhinoceros in that country. The Fund has enabled surveillance and monitoring training for field staff and a survey on the Selous rhino population that will yield specific recommendations for establishing potential Intensive Protection Zones in the reserve.
In the short history of the program, the Service has received many comments about the utility and importance of the Fund, both within the United States and from other countries. Dr. Thomas Foose, of the International Rhino Foundation says that "The Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund is an important component of the entire package of partnerships. Many had origins before (the Fund), but it helps them flourish, and stimulates matching requirements." From India, Ms. Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society, says that "FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is perhaps the one (organization) we respect the most, because we have had such a long and close interaction with them. They are genuinely aware of all the issues...they understand and care."
The Service has also developed a strong partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Save the Tiger Fund", serving on the Council which oversees it and coordinating reviews for all of the project proposals received by each program.
The Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund has gotten off to an excellent start over the past three years. The job has only just begun, however. There is much more work to do and no shortage of committed partners seeking our help in Africa and Asia. Reauthorization of the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act will send a strong message that the American people care deeply about these resources of commitment by the U.S. Government to provide sufficient funding and continued support to the conservation of these key representatives of the Asian and African continents and fill an important void.
The Administration supports the passage of H.R. 3113 and also seeks some technical amendments consistent with our FY99 budget proposal to consolidate the African elephant, Asian elephant, and rhino and tiger conservation funds under a Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The purpose of the consolidation would be to streamline bookkeeping and eliminate unnecessary duplication and overhead. Separate sub-accounts would be retained for the Rhino and Tiger Conservation program and each of the other specialized programs under this Fund.
The Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act/H.R. 2807
I would now like to discuss the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act, introduced by Chairman Saxton. Chairman Saxton's bill, H.R. 2807, addresses a critical part of the remaining problem. Conservation assistance is only half of the job, however. In order to break the cycle of poaching and illegal trade which has devastated so many rhino and tiger populations, we must also work to break supply lines and remove rhino and tiger products from the marketplace.
In 1993, we became aware that authorities in China and Taiwan were ignoring or even, in some cases, aiding and abetting a flourishing trade in rhino and tiger parts within their borders. It was determined that coordinated U.S. and international action were necessary. The Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman's Protective Act was invoked by certifying both China and Taiwan and CITES nations worked to obtain an international consensus on the need for corrective action. In response to a clear statement of our expectations for improvement in the situation, China took some immediate positive steps to improve their laws and enforcement. Taiwan failed to make similar progress, however, and in 1994 the President took the unprecedented step of applying trade sanctions. The sanctions -- combined with continued efforts at constructive engagement -- eventually resulted in enormous improvements on Taiwan. As a result, in 1995 the President was able to remove the sanctions, and the Pelly certification was lifted in 1996. With strong U.S. encouragement, Taiwan has continued these positive efforts.
Unfortunately, not all of the problems with the trade in rhino and tiger parts is in Asia. There is also a thriving trade in medicines which are at least labeled as containing tiger or rhino parts in traditional medicine shops in major cities having large Asian communities all around the world -- and we are not exempt from this problem in the United States. Recognizing this, in 1994 the Fish and Wildlife Service was asked to undertake a program to help remove these medicines from the U.S. marketplace. As a result, the Service began a pilot program in Los Angeles involving outreach to local Asian communities, incorporation of the plight of rhinos and tigers into the curriculum in local schools, and other community-based activities. In addition, in Los Angeles an interagency wildlife law enforcement task force has also made concentrated efforts to interdict shipments of wildlife products -- including rhino and tiger medicines -- with excellent results.
The Los Angeles programs have clearly had an impact. A recent survey by TRAFFIC, the World Wildlife Fund's wildlife trade monitoring organization, found that of seven U.S. and Canadian cities, Los Angeles had by far the lowest incidence of medicines labeled as tiger and rhino medicines in traditional medicine shops. On the other hand, the survey also reveals the depth of the problem which we are facing in other cities, and highlights a continuing problem which no amount of educational outreach or enforcement task forces can solve -- the lack of authority to take enforcement action against medicines which are labeled as containing tiger or rhino parts. Every year, Service wildlife inspectors all over the country routinely encounter shipments containing wildlife products labeled as containing protected species parts -- especially tiger and rhino. These mass-produced products from Asia are destined to be sold as "cure-alls" in traditional medicine shops. Investigations in Asia have clearly shown that rhino horn, tiger bone, and other tiger and rhino parts are used in manufacture of some of these medicines.
Once these products reach the United States -- even when their labels blatantly claim that the items contain rhino or tiger parts -- the burden of proof is still on the Service to demonstrate scientifically whether the products contain what the label says. This is a time-consuming and expensive process. Forensics experts estimate a cost of up to $100,000 to develop a DNA analysis test to identify any particular group of wildlife, such as all rhinos or all tigers, and the process would only work if DNA markers had not been destroyed when the product was manufactured. For example, if a product reported to contain tiger bone has been heated to high temperatures during compounding, a DNA analysis test could not be conclusive. The only substance which could be confirmed is the presence of calcium, an ingredient just as likely to represent cow bone and tiger bone.
Given these results, seized items must often be returned to the importer because no violation of existing U.S. law can be shown. Some ports have chosen not to seize tiger bone products because the burden of proof with respect to content has made enforcement so difficult. As a result, products claiming to contain tiger and rhino continue to be readily for sale. Even if some of these products contain no rhino or tiger parts, they serve as a smokescreen for other products which clearly do contain the real thing. As a result, such products continue to stimulate demand and feed a market that ultimately depends on the killing of these critically endangered species.
H.R. 2807, the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act, would close this major gap in our existing laws by adding new criminal prohibitions to the existing Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act. The Administration strongly supports this new measure, which is designed to prohibit the importation and sale of products that claim to contain rhinoceros horn or tiger products. The proposed prohibition on import and export of such products will allow us to seize these illegal substances at U.S. ports of entry and demand their immediate forfeiture, and the prohibition on sale of these products will help keep stockpiles which are already in the country off store shelves. Furthermore, this bill is fully in keeping with an international consensus on the need for such legislation in every country. Recognizing that trade in rhino and tiger medicines is a global problem, the CITES Conference of the Parties has adopted a series of resolutions calling on all countries to adopt new legislation to control this trade. Resolution Conf. 9. 13, for example, adopted in Fort Lauderdale in 1994, urges tiger range and consumer countries to prohibit trade in "...products labeled as containing parts and derivatives of tiger." Resolution Conf. 10.19, adopted in Harare last year, asks parties to ensure that "..their national legislation effectively controls trade in all parts and derivatives of species used for healing purposes and trade in medicinal products containing or purporting to contain them." [Emphasis added] Other countries are also moving forward to implement these CITES recommendations: the United Kingdom, for example, has adopted similar legislation which has enabled it to remove 20,000 items from shelves in traditional medicine shops in London alone.
We note that in passing H.R. 2807 the House adopted amendments recommended by the Administration to include additional authority to seek civil penalties and forfeiture for violations of the prohibitions, definitions of who is subject to the law, and establishing court jurisdiction.
In summary, the Administration is strongly in favor of the adoption of H.R. 2807 as passed by the House. It will help to ensure that commercial trade in rhino and tiger medicines in the United States does not undermine the benefits to range countries from Congressional appropriations to the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Fund and compound the cost of conserving these species in the wild. Passage of H.R. 2807 would complement and enhance our ongoing conservation efforts under the Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act, the Pelly Amendment, CITES, and other domestic and international measures. We believe that the Rhino and Tiger Product Labeling Act will help continue the global leadership role of the United States in rhino and tiger conservation.
S. 659, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act
Next, I'll address S. 659, a bill to reauthorize the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990. The Administration supports S. 659 and its House companion bill, H.R. 1481, as an important step forward in restoring fish and wildlife resources in the Great Lakes. I would like to extend my appreciation to you and the rest of the Committee for your interest in the restoration of the fish and wildlife resources of the Great Lakes Basin.
Background on the Great Lakes Basin The Great Lakes Basin is the largest system of fresh water on the planet and home to 10 percent of the U.S. and 25 percent of the Canadian populations. It represents the nation's fourth largest coastline and provides essential habitat for endangered species and breeding areas for waterfowl, migratory birds, and fish. The nation relies on the Great Lakes for a myriad of uses including the transportation of goods, hunting, boating and recreational and commercial fishing.
The Great Lakes fish and wildlife resources and their associated habitats are especially important to the region and represent the foundation on which much of the region's economic vitality depends. A multitude of habitat types are found throughout the Great Lakes Basin; from the warmer, lower lakes to the deep, cold waters of Lake Superior. Each habitat type supports an array of species, ranging from lake whitefish, yellow perch, walleye, and lake trout, to countless bird species, both residential and migratory. As a result, outdoor recreation and tourism alone provides $15 billion to the region annually, with almost $7 billion originating from the fishing industry. Much of the region's cultural heritage is also based on the basin's fish and wildlife resources.
Because of the varied uses and values of the Great Lakes and the complexity of problems that often occur, governing Domes have Joined together to form some of the nation's strongest interjurisdictional partnerships. Problems relating to DDT and eutrophication caught the public's attention in the 1960s, leading to the first Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. in 1972. With the subsequent 1978 agreement, the nation witnessed a truly innovative approach to natural resource management; one that looked at the entire basin from an ecosystem perspective.
Decimation of fish stocks due to sea lamprey predation and over-fishing brought forth the Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries and. the establishment of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (Commission). These developments led to an extraordinary effort to control a single nuisance species; an effort that continues successfully today. In 1981, the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries was developed and implemented to facilitate the proper management of the fishery resources within the basin.
Other issues ranging from toxic sedimentation, agricultural run-off, aquatic nuisance species invasions, and shore erosion have all required similar joint efforts. They rely not on just one or two government entities, but on all jurisdictions, ranging from Tribes, States, the Federal government, local municipalities, environmental groups, and industries.
The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990 Recognizing the importance of the basin's fish and wildlife resources, and the need to manage cooperatively, Congress passed the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990 to evaluate the status of the basin's fishery resources and to develop appropriate recommendations to address the most pressing needs.
Since 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in cooperation with many partners in the basin. has made significant progress in implementing provisions in the law. In 1995, the Service submitted the Great Lakes Fishers'' Resources Restoration Study (Study) to Congress.
The Study was developed by the Service's Great Lakes Coordination Office and Fishery Resources Offices in close collaboration with 76 State, Provincial, Tribal and Federal Great Lakes aquatic resource experts, in addition to representatives from academia and non~ governmental organizations. Four incremental drafts were prepared and submitted for review and comment, with improvements made after each review. The result was a broadly-supported and widely-heralded report containing meaningful and well-crafted recommendations.
The study's 32 recommendations address concerns common to each of the Great Lakes and their watersheds and represent priorities not currently funded through any management agency.
Recommendations range from eliminating nonindigenous species invasions to determining the impacts of hydroelectric facilities and dam operations on fish passage. Each recommendation was collaboratively developed and requires the involvement of all Great Lakes Basin partners for implementation.
As directed by the Act, the Service also staffed and equipped Fishery Resources Offices in the Upper and Lower Great Lakes and a Great Lakes Coordination Office in Michigan. These of rices have made great strides in managing the fishery resources of the Great Lakes. Current activities include:
The process of identifying, reviewing, and implementing proposals, as outlined in Section 6(b) of the bill, continues the partnerships initiated under the original Act and provides a direct pathway from problem identification to solution. States, Tribes, and the Service working together, who are often in the best position to recognize problems and effect on-the-ground solutions, will receive much needed support to implement study recommendations. The Administration, however, seeks a technical amendment to this Section by inserting ", under existing authorities," on page 8, line 11, after "Commission." This would clarify that the Army Corps of Engineers would continue to use its existing authority to work with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
The Service supports passage of the bill to reinforce Congress' commitment to implementing the Study recommendations and to enable possible increases in the Service's budget request in the future for fisheries restoration efforts in the Great Lakes.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, the Administration supports S. 659 and believes that it will significantly contribute to the restoration of one of our nation's most important ecosystems, and in particular, the fish and wildlife resources on which the region depends. Progress made to date under the Act represents the combined efforts of Great Lakes Basin partners, and S. 659 continues this tradition by providing a necessary and timely shift from investigation of needs to on-the-ground action.
S. 2244, the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership Enhancement Act
The next bill on the Committee's agenda is S. 2244, the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership Enhancement Act. We would like to thank you Mr. Chairman for the personal interest you have taken in drafting legislation on this issue. I know Director Clark has personally conveyed this to you during refuge events in Rhode Island, and she regrets being tenable to he here today.
The Administration supports enactment of S. 2244, the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership Enhancement Act. However, we do have an amendment to suggest. S. 2244 builds on the recently -enacted National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. As you know, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act strengthens the legal underpinnings of the System and emphasizes public participation in the operation of the System. The Volunteer bill before the Committee today increases that emphasis on public participation and provides direction for the System's volunteers and its partnership organizations.
Opportunities for the use of volunteers are currently available, not only on our National Wildlife Refuges, but on our national fish hatcheries, and in our law enforcement and ecological services field stations, and our regional offices. The Service is authorized to have a volunteer program by the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, as amended by the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978, which states, in part, "The Secretary of the Interior may recruit, train, and accept the services of individuals without compensation as volunteers for, or in aid of a program conducted by the Secretary through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service." This Act further states that incidental expenses such as transportation, uniforms, lodging, and subsistence of such volunteers are authorized. The Fiscal Year 1992 Interior Appropriations Act also authorized the Service to use appropriated funds to award and recognize volunteers.
Despite recent increases in Refuge System funding sought by the Administration and provided by the Congress, the shortfall in operating and maintenance funds for the National Wildlife Refuge System presents a major challenge to our ability to carry out the Refuge System's unique conservation mission. Reliance on volunteers and private donations can play an important role in addressing these needs, but we must recognize that this is only a partial answer.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's volunteers play a vital role in helping to fulfill our mission of conserving, protecting and enhancing America's fish and wildlife and their habitats. Public interest in participating in Service programs and visiting our facilities continues to exceed our staff capacity and funding, and it is expected to do so in the future. Volunteers provide essential services that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not have the resources or staff to provide. The number of our volunteers has increased from 4,251 in 1982 to 25,840 volunteers in 1996. Volunteer hours also have increased, from 128,440 hours in 1982 to over one million hours in 1996, Our volunteers work at a variety of tasks ranging from construction and repair projects, to orienting and educating visitors, to assisting with fish and wildlife surveys and habitat improvement projects.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteers include unaffiliated individuals, boy scouts, girl scouts, members of the American Association of Retired Persons, local Friends of the individual refuge groups, local Audubon chapters, and school groups, to name a few. The Service also uses volunteers from organizations such as the Student Conservation Association.
Several examples of volunteer efforts include:
S. 2244 will further encourage the use of volunteers to assist the Service in the management of our National Wildlife Refuges; facilitate partnerships between the Service and non -Federal entities to promote public awareness of the resources of the Refuge System and public participation in the conservation of those resources; and encourage donations and other contributions by persons and organizations to individual refuges and the Refuge System.
We are particularly pleased that the bill authorizes support of community partnerships that promote the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. These are 501 (c)(3) nonprofit groups organized by local citizens to support their local National Wildlife Refuge through grassroots volunteer efforts, fund -raising, outreach, and education. The clear statement of legislative direction found in S. 2244 should boost this increasingly popular form of public/private interaction. These partnerships with outside organizations and individuals are increasingly important elements of our ability to carry out conservation, recreation, and education programs. The Volunteer bill could add considerably to our abilities to interact with the private sector in accomplishing the Refuge System mission.
The bill also affirms our authority for cost share projects, which to date have been authorized in annual appropriation bills. The concept of matching funds is very effective in stimulating the donation of funds or in -kind services to achieve the goal of improving a refuge. A refuge manager with a project initiative will first evaluate their own field station's budget to determine if funding is available. If sufficient funding is not available at the field station, funding support from the regional or national level would then be explored. Permanent authorization and direction could help this program grow beyond its current $3.3 million size, thus leveraging available funds.
S. 2244 would also establish a pilot program to test the effects of locating a volunteer coordinator at between two and twenty selected refuges. This three -year program would enable us to determine what impact this would have on our ability to recruit and utilize volunteers, work with partner organizations and other non -Federal entities interested in cooperative projects on refuges, and promote cost -sharing projects. After three years, we would provide a report and recommendations to the Congress as to the future direction of this effort. We are looking forward to implementing this provision, and believe that the investment involved will pay considerable dividends.
The bill further enhances our volunteer capability by authorizing the establishment of a Senior Volunteer Corps, authorizes us to provide for incidental expenses for the Senior volunteers beyond those otherwise provided to volunteers and to provide for expenses of local volunteers.
The Administration endorses utilizing the talents of Senior volunteers to benefit our National Wildlife Refuges, but believes that establishment of a new Senior Volunteer Corps for the Fish and Wildlife Service, as provided in section 4(c), is unnecessary. The goal of increased utilization of senior citizens in refuge volunteer programs can most effectively be achieved through an interagency agreement between the Service and the Corporation for National Service's National Senior Service Corps (NSSC). The programs and infrastructure of the NSSC have been in existence for over thirty years, and can maximize senior volunteer involvement at the lowest possible administrative cost. We accordingly recommend that the bill be amended to reflect this.
The last major element of S. 2244 is direction on providing refuge educational programs. While the Service already engages in environmental education programs at many refuges, the bill calls for unified program guidance for this activity. This guidance, and the greater attention to refuge education programs that is likely to follow, should lead to both an expansion of our efforts and greater community involvement in those efforts. Both will be extremely beneficial for the refuges and for the communities in which the activities occur.
We again thank you and the Committee for the interest shown in the National Wildlife Refuge System and for this legislation on the use of volunteers. Its enactment should provide a major boost for refuge volunteer programs and the many benefits they bring to our National Wildlife Refuges.
S. 263, the Bear Protection Act
Finally, I'll address S. 263, the Bear Protection Act. S. 263 is intended to prevent American Black Bear populations from being harmed as a result of the demand for bear viscera which is used in certain Asian medicinal products. The legislation would prohibit the import into or export from the United States of bear viscera, or products that contain or claim to contain bear viscera, and it would prohibit the sale, barter, or possession of bear viscera for interstate commerce. The bill would require the Secretary to report to the Congress on the bear viscera trade, and require the Secretary of the Interior and the United States Trade Representative to discuss bear trade issues with the leading countries that import or export bear viscera. Finally, it would impose the same penalties and sanctions as those imposed under the Lacey Act.
Although significant illegal trade in Asiatic species of bear exists primarily to supply the Asian medicinal market, the Fish and Wildlife Service does not have evidence to support the claim that bears in the United States are threatened by the demand for bear viscera. Existing authorities such as the Endangered Species Act, Lacey Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) have been effective tools in addressing the illegal bear trade. With the exception of black bear populations in Florida and Louisiana, black bear populations in the U.S. and Canada generally are increasing, due in a large part to the effective wildlife management activities of the states. According to our records, there are over 590,000 black bears in the U.S. and Canada.
The Service currently monitors and investigates illegal commercial wildlife activities related to bear and bear parts under existing authorities. Our current controls have resulted in the detection of an average of 70 illegal shipments of bear and bear parts over the past five years. During this time period, the Service has also been effective in conducting successful and productive investigations as demonstrated by the following statistics:
In 1993, there were 42 criminal cases and 1 civil case, involving bear or bear parts. A total of $ 154,755 in fines and 1,930 days of jail time was imposed.
In 1994, there were 46 criminal cases involving bear or bear parts. A total of $25,485 in fines and 169 days of jail time was imposed.
In 1995, there were 23 criminal cases involving bear or bear parts. A total of $21,547 in fines and 495 days of jail time was imposed.
In 1996, there were 21 criminal cases involving bear or bear parts. A total of $12,534 in fines and 1,696 days of jail time was imposed.
In addition, the number of imports/exports refused that contained bear or bear parts increased from 65 shipments in 1993 to 77 shipments in 1996.
The Service has significant concerns with language contained in the bill that would hinder the successful prosecution of cases brought under the Bear Protection Act. The Lacey Act is an umbrella statute used to provide additional protection to fish, wildlife, and plants that were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of state, tribal, foreign, or U.S. law. Literally adopting portions of the Lacey Act into the Bear Protection Act creates technical legal concerns that should be addressed prior to the final passage of this legislation.
One example of this problem can be found in the reference to the Lacey Act penalties and sanctions provisions. These provisions refer specifically to the requirement of a violation of an underlying predicate law. This implies that some other law would have to be violated in order to impose the Bear Protection Act. The Bear Protection Act, as currently drafted, is intended to be a stand-alone statute that is not dependent on a violation of an underlying predicate law. To remedy this problem, specific and clear provisions must be written into the Bear Protection Act that would eliminate this potential legal technicality. There are other references to the Lacey Act throughout the proposed legislation that create similar problems.
Finally, the Service has concerns with the potential increase in responsibilities and impact on its human and financial resources. To date, the Service has successfully utilized undercover investigations and task force operations in its prior investigations and would anticipate that S. 263 would result in an increase in enforcement responsibilities for the Service without a corresponding increase in funding.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Service believes that bears in the United States have been adequately protected to date and that this legislation addresses an issue which has not been a major resource problem. We have certain concerns about other provisions. If the Committee proceeds with S. 263, we would be available to assist staff in drafting technical corrections to address those concerns.