Statement of Senator Max Baucus
Hearing on National Wildlife Refuge System Act
July 30, 1997

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for scheduling this hearing so quickly. As you know, the House version of this bill was passed in June and I think it is important that the Senate act on it soon.

Let me make just two brief comments.

One of the most lasting legacies of President Theodore Roosevelt is the National Wildlife Refuge System.

What began as one bird sanctuary on Pelican Island Florida has evolved into the most comprehensive network for the protection of wild creatures in the world.

That is something we should be proud of. Something we should protect.

Over the years, however, conflicting desires and interests have made the task of managing our refuges more difficult. Congress has passed laws to govern specific aspects of refuge operation. However, we have never provided a solid statutory foundation -- a mission statement, if you will for the system as a whole.

This committee, with the strong leadership of Senator Graham, tried to do that in the 103rd Congress when we reported S. 823.

Last year, the Administration provided some direction to the refuges through an executive order. But a statutory basis for the refuge system would be the best approach. And the bill before us does just that.

One more thing. This bill is based almost entirely on legislation passed by the House. That bill was the subject of extensive negotiation, including with the Administration and various interest groups.

What emerged was a compromise that was good for wildlife, good for the refuges, and good for the people who enjoy both.

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to our committee building on that accomplishment.

Thank you.