Thank you Mr. Chairman for inviting me to testify at your hearing today.
I represent the American Land Rights Association, an organization of small property owners in all 50 states.
I worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for 30 years in four states and Washington, DC as a wildlife biologist, special agent, and refuge manager. I have enforced Injurious Wildlife regulations and investigated Endangered Species cases both here and in Europe. I have worked on Invasive Species control programs for nutria and purple loosestrife. I have attended UN Wildlife Conferences and represented state wildlife agencies fighting a threatened European fur embargo. I currently write and speak extensively about both Endangered and Invasive Species.
The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003, S. 525 is based on erroneous assumptions. Briefly, it is wrong:
1. To characterize all recently arrived plants and animals as having only exaggerated bad effects and “reducing biodiversity” (Sec. 2 Findings 1-10). This striped bass is an “Invasive Species” in numerous lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the nation as well as in west coast estuaries. This rainbow trout is another “Invasive Species” in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout the United States. Fishing license money, State fishery management staffs, charter boat revenues, boat and boating equipment sales, fishing tackle sales, tourist revenues, annual Sport Fish Restoration dollars in the millions, taxidermy business, as well as millions of hours of family recreation and many fine meals will all be reduced under this legislation. These fish are typical of many desirable “Invasive” plants and animals that increase “biodiversity” while benefiting us all.
2. To infer a Federal concern for plants and animals “outside the historic range of the species of which the organism is a member” (Sec.1003 ). This applies directly to these two fish that have been widely and purposely introduced for the many direct and indirect benefits to citizens and aquatic habitats that they create. What does “historic range” mean? When Asians arrived 10,000 years ago? When Columbus arrived? When the Constitution was signed? Camels, horses, and elephants once thrived here, are they native or “Invasive Species”?
3. To define Federal aquatic authority as including “estuarine” and “inland waters and wetlands” (Sec. 1003 ). These waters are nearly all under State jurisdiction. Given the current court case involving the decade-long dumping of toxic sludge by the US Army Corps of Engineers through a National Park under an EPA permit reviewed by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the spawning grounds of Endangered shortnose sturgeon in the Potomac River as it passes Washington, DC, it does not appear prudent to expand Federal authority in this manner.
4. To infer Federal jurisdiction over “invasive species” and “non-indigenous species” that “may cause harm” (Sec. 1003 (17)) so broadly defined as to permit any biological competition or increase in biodiversity to be declared harmful. These two fish for instance eat other fish and compete with yet others for space and food.
5. To claim authority over “any fundamental category of taxonomic classification…below a genus or subgenus” (Sec. 1003 (28)). This enshrines the unwritten Endangered Species Act principle that authorizes all manner of Federal intervention to the smallest flock, school, or stand of any species. This has caused increasing friction with property owners and many others as the level of Federal concern descended below that of species to races, varieties, distinct populations, and even beyond.
Using the need for the Federal government to regulate ballast water, a penumbra of Federal authorities and tasks are being created to mimic the Endangered Species Act. That Act has caused havoc with much more than property rights and has gone unauthorized for fifteen years while it’s reach and annual appropriations continue to grow.
The authority to manage, control, and eradicate plants and animals is one of those “powers” “reserved to the States” in the 10th Amendment. The Federal government is responsible for the management of the import, export, interstate, and foreign aspects of these matters. It is proper that the Federal government assures clean ballast water discharges, manages imports and exports, and cooperates with State governments in the management, control, and eradication of harmful plants and animals regardless of their origins or arrival dates.
The American Land Rights Association joins with all citizens concerned about the loss of not only land property rights but also the rights of fish owners, aquarium hobbyists, florists, gardeners, landscapers, boaters, horseback riders, pet owners, hikers, trappers, duck hunters, fishermen and scores of others whose property rights, outdoor activities, property rights held in trust by State governments, and public land access are directly threatened by this proposed expansion of Federal authority and diminishment of State authority over aquatic habitats. The task being proposed (encouragement of “native species”) is not desirable, not beneficial, not achievable, not measurable, never-ending, and a public expense beyond comprehension.
Please consider a revised bill that controls ballast water discharge, controls harmful aquatic plants and animals on the Federal estate, and cooperates with the States to fulfill the fish, wildlife, and plant responsibilities assigned them in the Constitution. Otherwise, S. 525 will, like the Endangered Species Act, radically modify our basic freedoms while enriching only Federal bureaucracies, Universities, and the agendas of environmental and animal rights organizations.
One last observation: The bill’s proposed “whitelist approach” (Sec. 1105 et al) for controlling imports is fraught with pitfalls. It is causing problems in Australia and had it been in effect here 200 years ago we would not have brown trout, tulips, Holsteins, or even house cats here today. Five minutes is not enough time for me to explain this, but I would offer to point out there is a better approach that does not impair the trade and freedoms we cherish while minimizing future, harmful UN controls which are likely with Invasive Species as they have been with Endangered Species under CITES.
Further explanation of these issues may be found on the American Land Rights Association website, www.landrights.org.
Thank you and I am ready to answer any questions you might have.
James Beers, Centreville, Virginia -830-7229.