Mr. Chairman, thank you for giving our committee an opportunity to discuss this landmark piece of legislation – the Endangered Species Act. I believe it is our duty to future generations – our children and grandchildren to not only protect the environment, but prevent species of animals from extinction. The Endangered Species Act has done that.
The bald eagle – the symbol of our nation – is one of the 17 animals on the endangered species list that are found in my state of New Jersey. We also have a bird in New Jersey called the Red Knot. This bird stops in New Jersey for a few weeks every year, on its way to Canada from South America. It used to be that 100 thousand Red Knots would stop in the Delaware Bay – and bird watchers would spend millions of dollars coming to witness the spectacle. Today, only about 13,000 Red Knots visit our state.
Mr. Chairman, I have ten grandchildren. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I knew that they were growing up in a world where the bald eagle had become extinct – or the Red Knot no longer visited the Delaware Bay. One of the main purposes of the Endangered Species Act is to protect the remaining individuals of these species and their habitats.
Today we are talking about habitat – specifically, the private lands that are crucial to the survival of these species. More than 70 percent of the land in our country is privately owned. So it is no surprise that 80 percent of endangered species rely on private lands for all or part of their habitat.
I believe strongly in the rights of landowners to use their property as they see fit. But I also believe that when a specific habitat holds the key to survival for an entire species, we all have a responsibility to future generations. I fully support the concept of providing incentives for private landowners to protect the habitat of endangered species.
This is an area of general agreement, and I hope we can build upon this consensus and find more specific ways to ensure that my ten grandchildren – and all of their grandchildren – will always be able to appreciate the majesty of the bald eagle and other endangered species. Thank you Mr. Chairman.