Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing entitled,
"Collaborative Solutions to Wildlife and Habitat Management."
April 27, 2010 - 10:00 a.m.
In 2005, as Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I was pleased to author and see the enactment of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act in October 2006. I held a field hearing in Tulsa, Oklahoma in April 2005, which featured one of our witnesses today, Grove Valley Principal Debbie Straughn. Ms. Straughn established an outdoor classroom through the Partners Program. Former FWS Director Dale Hall testified along with landowners who have benefited from the program. The hearing also explored how Partners Program conservation projects were being developed alongside agriculture, ranching, and oil and gas development. The Partners Program demonstrates that conservation, oil and gas development, and agriculture are not mutually exclusive.
I believe all conservation programs should create positive incentives to protect species and, above all, should hold the rights of private landowners sacred. That is why this program is the model for cooperative conservation, collaborating with landowners in voluntary agreements to conserve and even create habitat for species. I support adequate funding for the Partners Program, but I am concerned that the funding Congress provides may be constrained by political agendas. The Partners Program received $60 million in FY10, which is around $7 million more than FY09 levels. Six million of the FY10 funding, however, was newly designated for "assistance in response to climate change." Again in the FY11 President's budget submission, another $2 million has been requested of Partners Program funding for the same purpose. Consistently, Congress has not enacted climate change legislation for a variety of very legitimate concerns. It is important that the Partners Program remain focused on conservation and that otherwise eligible projects for the Partners Program are not rejected simply because the Administration wishes to impose a new climate nexus to Partners projects.
The Partners Program has developed more than 41,000 private-landowner agreements, resulting in positive ecological and economic effects on tens of thousands of acres nationwide, including nearly 800,000 acres of wetlands, nearly 2 million acres of grassland and prairie habitat, and over 7,000 miles of in-stream habitat. In Oklahoma alone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife program has provided nearly $5.5 million, while private landowners have contributed over $16.5 million to restore over 300,000 acres of habitat in Oklahoma through over 1,000 individual voluntary agreements with private landowners. The rate of public to private investment is 4 to 1.
On that high note, I welcome all the witnesses to the Committee and look forward to hearing more about your collaborative efforts.