(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider the nomination of Dan Ashe to be Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
During his more than 15-year career with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Mr. Ashe has held a wide variety of positions that have given him a deep understanding of the agency he is being asked to lead.
Dan Ashe currently serves as the Deputy Director. Since joining the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995, he has also served as:
• Science Advisor to the Director, where he advised the Service Director and provided leadership on use of science within the Agency;
• Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, where he was responsible for directing operation and management of the more than 150 million-acre Refuge System; and
• Assistant Director for External Affairs.
Dan Ashe’s broad experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service makes him uniquely qualified to deal with the many challenges the Service faces today.
Mr. Ashe’s knowledge and appreciation of the Fish and Wildlife Service developed well before serving in leadership positions with the agency. His father was also a career Fish and Wildlife Service employee, and Mr. Ashe spent his childhood visiting many of the national treasures that the Service is charged with protecting.
I know family always plays an important role in our achievements. And I would like to welcome members of Dan Ashe’s family who have joined us here today – his wife Barbara and daughter Mary. Unfortunately, his son Michael is busy preparing for his college mid-terms and couldn’t join us.
Mr. Ashe, as you know, the task you have been asked to undertake is critically important. 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 Bald Eagle and the California Condor and irreplaceable wildlife refuges like the ones in San Francisco Bay and San Diego.
The Service’s work also supports tourism and recreation that boosts local economies. In 2006, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, hunting, fishing and wildlife-related activities provided $8 billion to the California economy and more than $122 billion to the national economy, equaling roughly 1 percent of our nation’s GDP. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion to the US economy and is responsible for 1 out of every 20 jobs.
Mr. Ashe, you have been nominated to lead an agency that not only maintains safeguards for our nation’s iconic species but that also plays a key role in supporting a multi-billion dollar wildlife-related economy. The health of our environment and the success of our economy go hand in hand.
This job will not be easy. There will be controversy and difficult decisions, but I expect that you will follow the law and the best-available science in your decision-making.
At the beginning of this Administration, President Obama took important steps to restore scientific integrity and committed to uphold the Endangered Species Act. The President’s priorities have been echoed by Secretary Salazar. Today, I look forward to hearing how, if confirmed, you will fulfill these commitments at the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Strong leadership is needed to protect and preserve the nation’s natural treasures and to confront the pressing problems facing our nation’s fish and wildlife. Your record as a committed conservationist, and your many years of experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service are strong qualifications for this important position. I look forward to your testimony today.