Statement of Senator James Inhofe
Endangered Species Act Reauthorization

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the Endangered Species Recovery Act of 1997. I know that you, Senator Kempthorne, Senator Baucus and Senator Reid worked long and hard to reach the product that we have before us today.

I have many concerns regarding the Endangered Species Act. I serve on the Armed Service Committee, as do many of my colleagues on this committee. As Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, I have heard many times how endangered species affect the activities of our military. In Camp Lejeune, The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker prevented training exercises. On the beaches of North and South Carolina, amphibian operations were curtailed because of the Sea Turtle.

America has adopted an attitude that places more value on the life of a critter that on a human being. We want to protect the Spotted Owl, yet we care little for the men and women who lost jobs in the Northwest when the timber industry was virtually shut down. We want to protect the Arkansas River Shiner, a bait fish in Oklahoma, yet we will allow unborn babies to have their brains sucked out in a partial birth abortion. Mr. Chairman, we need to do something.

Although this bill is far from perfect, it does move us one step closer to reforming an outdated law that has punished private land owners for too long. After reading through the bill, I found several sections that seem particularly important and wish to touch on those briefly.

I am glad to see more State involvement. States views must be solicited and considered by the Secretary when a listing is initiated. Also, States may assume responsibility for recovery planning. This bill will authorize States to appoint the recovery team and submit the draft recovery plan to the Secretary.

I am glad to see a process for de-listing a species within this bill. We have declared many species endangered, but few have ever been declared recovered. This will give the Secretary direction to implement just such a plan.

And finally, I am glad to see requirements that the Secretary use sound science regarding the listing of any species.

Having said that, I also wish to mention one glaring omission: The issue of private property rights and compensation for lost use. To me, this is the key to any meaningful endangered species reform. I have spoken to Senator Kempthorne and expressed my concern regarding this issue and he has assured me that this is also of concern to him. His bill, S. 1181, will address the property rights issue, and I wish to compliment him on that and offer my support for that legislation.

Additionally, I am in the process of drafting letters to Senator Hatch, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Roth, Chairman of the Finance Committee, to encourage them to hold hearings on S. 1181 as soon as possible. It is my sincere hope that when the bill before us today is brought to the floor, it will be amended with the language in S. 1181.

Mr. Chairman, as I have stated, this bill begins to move us in the right direction. However, it does not fulfill the campaign promises we made to America. I will reluctantly support this language and will actively pursue amending the bill to reflect the concerns of private property owner everywhere. Thank you.