STATEMENT OF U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
SEPTEMBER 23, 1997
ESA REAUTHORIZATION

Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank you for scheduling today's hearing on this important legislation. Your leadership on this issue has brought us to the point we are at today and I commend you for your dedication to reauthorizing this important Act. I also wish to extend my thanks to the ranking member of the committee Senator Baucus and the Chairman of the subcommittee, Senator Kempthorne.

The Endangered Species Recovery Act is the product of years of bipartisan efforts. The Endangered Species Act is considered to be one of the cornerstones of our environmental laws. Unfortunately, the current Act is failing in its ability to recover species. Like any good Act, it is in need of reauthorization to adapt to changes in society. Having carefully examined where and how it is lacking we undertook efforts to craft legislative solutions. Much of these solutions are the result of input we received from environmentalists, landowners and those involved in administering this Act.

I believe the legislation we introduced last week represents a good starting point for reauthorizing the Act. While it may not make everyone happy, I do not believe we should make the perfect the enemy of the good. No legislation will please everyone. And arguably those measures which are criticized equally by opposing interests represent the best proposals. Bipartisan efforts help to ensure passage, they are not meant to be crowd pleasers.

I am pleased with the result of our bipartisan efforts. I wish to thank the Senators Chafee, Baucus and Kempthorne for the time and commitment they made toward reauthorizing this Act. I believe this measure represents significant progress from where we started earlier this year.

It is important that we undertake reauthorization so that we can put an end to legislative efforts to gut this Act on the annual Appropriations measures. As all are aware, these often extreme proposals resulted in fiercely partisan debates. I do not believe the appropriations process is the appropriate vehicle for amending this Act. Without this bill, however, that is where we would be debating this Act today.

The bipartisan measure we are considering today undertakes the necessary reforms to make this Act work. It not only provides greater protection for species but is makes the Act more user friendly to ranchers and landowners who simply seek to play by the rules. What are the improvements this bill makes?

-- listings will be based on better science.

-- There is more public participation in developing plans to recover species.

-- Bill emphasizes conservation and recovery of species.

-- Includes deadlines and benchmarks for recovery.

-- Provides for greater cooperation with landowners.

-- includes greater incentives and assistance to landowners.

Streamlines federal agency consultation and thus will bring about greater recovery.

-- It ensures that recovery plans will actually be implemented and not simply sit on book shelves gathering dust.

A few other points. I have heard from some environmentalists about their concerns. I thank them for their input and look forward to reviewing their comments. I would like to remind them of how far we have come on this measure by mentioning some things that are not in this bill.

-- It does not include a provision on water rights.

-- It does not allow agencies to "self-consult" on adverse affects.

-- It does not require the selection of the least costly recovery strategy.

-- It does not modify the standard of emergency listing to "threat of imminent extinction."

-- It does not require a special rule for threatened species at the time of listing.

-- It does not incorporate the Sweethome standard of proximate and foreseeable" cause for take enforcement.

-- It does not waive NEPA review for HCPs and Recovery Plans.

I believe this a solid proposal. While improvements could be made, this measure is a solid proposal. I am hopeful we can fulfill our responsibility to reauthorize this Act.