(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider the nomination of Sam Hamilton to be Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
During his 30-year career with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Mr. Hamilton has held a wide variety of positions in Washington, DC, and in the field. He currently serves as regional director for the Southeast Region of the FWS, a position he has held since 1997. In this position, Mr. Hamilton has oversight responsibilities for endangered species conservation, national wildlife refuges, fisheries, and migratory bird conservation across the southeastern US and the Caribbean. He also plays a senior role in the Everglades and Coastal Louisiana restoration projects. His experience makes him especially well qualified to deal with the many challenges faced by the Fish and Wildlife Service today.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is the guardian of natural treasures and species in every state of the Union. In my own state of California, the Service has responsibility for iconic species like the California Condor and irreplaceable wildlife refuges like the ones in San Francisco Bay and San Diego.
The agency’s scientists are also on the front lines in documenting and addressing impact of global warming on species and their habitat. The world’s leading scientists have estimated that up to 40 percent of the planet’s wildlife and plant species could be at risk of extinction from unchecked global warming.
At the same time, the Service is emerging from a very difficult time. In recent years, funding levels were slashed, refuges and other public lands deteriorated, and scientific integrity was often overridden by political expediency.
I was very pleased to see President Obama take important steps to restore scientific integrity and uphold the Endangered Species Act. The President’s priorities were echoed by Secretary Salazar, who said that his “first priority at Interior is to lead the Department with openness in decision-making, high ethical standards and respect for scientific integrity.” Today, I look forward to hearing how, if confirmed, you will fulfill these commitments at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Our national wildlife refuges also need immediate attention. Many are in a state of disrepair as a multi-billion dollar operation and maintenance backlog grows, and in recent years, funding shortfalls and policy changes have resulted in the elimination of many positions and limited public access to many refuges. I was especially pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service received $300 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to begin to address some of these immediate needs at our refuges.
Strong leadership is needed to protect and preserve the nation’s natural treasures, and to ensure the pressing problems facing the Fish and Wildlife Service are addressed. Your record as a committed conservationist, and your many years of experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service will serve you well as you take on this challenge. I look forward to your testimony today.
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