Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this third hearing on updating the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Today, we are examining the role of state and local roles in implementing the ESA. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about their successes and their frustrations in working with the federal government on species conservation and recovery.
As a former mayor, I can attest that dealing with the federal government is not easy. Many times the federal government believes they know better than state and local entities. When I was mayor of Tulsa, I knew the characteristics, concerns, and challenges of my city and its people better than any bureaucrat in Washington.
With respect to conservation efforts, state and local government entities are the front lines. These are the individuals with the closest knowledge of the species, its habitat and local conditions. These individuals also have a responsibility to the people they serve to ensure economic viability of their state, city or county. As a mayor, you spend countless hours working with agencies, interest groups and private citizens to manage your city’s resources and plan for the future. These decisions and plans are not made lightly. I have heard numerous stories where state and local officials, private landowners, local environmental and citizen groups have worked together in partnership and have agreed to a sensible, protective strategy to recover species while protecting land use rights, only to have the federal government come in and overrule them.
In each of the previous hearings, I have expressed concern that those closest to the problem are all too often ignored when it comes to regulatory decision-making under the ESA. As we look at legislative changes to the ESA this fall, it will be a priority for me that we open up the regulatory process, increase the public participation of all parties, including private stakeholders, and provide state and local government with specific authorities and responsibilities for recovery and day-to-day, on-the-ground implementation. I hope that the testimony today will help us find a clear path as to how best to do that with recommendations from the front line.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing and I look forward to hearing the testimony.