Statement of Senator Max Baucus
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Oversight Hearing on the Importation of Exotic Species and the Impact on Human Health and Safety
July 17, 2003
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. I am pleased that this committee has taken the opportunity to learn more about exotic species, their impacts on human health, and the most efficient means of regulation. This is an important issue that must be addressed if we are to avoid future harms.
The threat of zoonotic diseases is one of deep significance to Montana, where wildlife is an important part of our culture and heritage. However, as the line between traditional and non-traditional animals blur, zoonotic diseases become a more important issue. For example, in my home state of Montana, prairie dogs call over 90,000 acres of land home and their population rivals our human population in number. We need to take the threat of zoonotic diseases, like the recent outbreak of monkeypox, seriously in order to ensure the safety of the American people. Measured responses to these diseases must be addressed, whether such diseases originate through exotic species importation or from native species at home.
Montana has had its own struggle with exotic species, most notably noxious weeds. Of course, Montanans are not yet keeping noxious weeds as exotic pets. Nevertheless, these weeds continue to plague many valuable landscapes and remain a detriment to native species. As a result, I am pleased that we are taking steps to help ensure that exotic species have measured and desirable impacts. We need to forge strong connections between local, state, and federal groups and agencies to ensure that we have the tools to adequately respond to threats. I hope that we can find a balanced way to efficiently handle problems with exotic species and I strongly support efforts to that end.
Thank you again Mr. Chairman, and I thank the witnesses for being here today.