Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water
Hearing on Critical Habitat Designation Under The Endangered Species Act
April 10, 2003

 

I'd like to thank Chairman Crapo for holding a hearing on this important topic.. In Oklahoma, we have seen first hand the need to revise the critical habitat processes of the Endangered Species Act. Five years ago when the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the Arkansas River Shiner, I raised the issue of the economic impact of that action. At a minimum, local communities have a right know what impact an endangered species is going to have. When the FWS designated critical habitat, the economic impact was again raised as an issue. Now, the FWS is being sued by a coalition of 18 groups from 4 States because they failed to listen the first time.

 

The Arkansas River Shiner is just one example of dozens of cases. The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently being inundated with lawsuits over critical habitat. The result is literally paralysis by litigation. This is detrimental to both the public and endangered species as it means that the agency's scarce resources are stretched even thinner. Only the most high profile problems get any attention. Other duties, such as Section 7 consultations, are neglected, making the ESA that much more of a burden on private citizens. Lawyers seem to be the only ones benefiting from the current situation.

 

But critical habitat litigation isn't just a problem for private citizens. As a member of the Armed Services Committee I have heard many times how endangered species affect the activities of our military. Endangered Species are found on a number of military bases across the country.

 

For example:

Air Force Academy, Colorado -- Preble's meadow jumping mouse

Fort Hood, Texas -- golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo

Fort Bragg, North Carolina -- red-cockaded woodpecker

Fort McCoy, Wisconsin -- Karner blue butterfly

Camp Pendleton, California -- 17 listed species[1]

 

The science and economic analysis that is incorporated into critical habitat designations will have as big an impact on national defense as it will on economic development.

 

Ultimately, designating critical habitat should be based on objective and credible scientific data and take into consideration the economic impact of critical habitat. Regrettably, this is rare under the current process. To often, a species is listed without enough data to even corroborate that the population is teetering on the brink of extinction. Nearly half of all the species that have been taken of the endangered species list, were taken off because the original data was in error.

 

In addition to inaccurate data, the economic analysis required by the statute has been equally deficient.

 

It is abundantly clear that a complete environmental and economic analysis is absolutely necessary before critical habitat is designated. It's time for the FWS to examine and revise their regulations to ensure that critical habitat is properly designated. Until that happens, the battle of litigation will only continue to frustrate both economic development and species preservation.



[1] Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, California least tern, Coastal California Gnatcatcher, Least Bell's Vireo, Light-footed Clapper Rail, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Western Snowy Plover, Pacific Pocket Mouse, Stephens' Kangaroo Rat, Southern Steelhead Trout, Tidewater Goby, Arroyo Toad, Riverside Fairy Shrimp, San Diego Fairy Shrimp, San Diego Button-Celery, Spreading Navarretia, and Thread-Leaved Brodiaea.