July 16, 1997

I first met Jamie Clark a few years ago when she came to my office with former Director Mollie Beattie on an official visit. Both Mollie and Jamie showed a keen interest in problem solving and reaching common-sense solutions. Jamie then participated in our negotiations on the Endangered Species Act last year. By all accounts, Jamie distinguished herself as someone able to find innovative solutions to difficult problems. The key to solving controversial problems, like those surrounding the ESA, often involves just being willing to listen to another point of view and to think creatively. In my experience, Jamie has always been willing to do both. So, I appreciate and respect Jamie's talents.

I look forward to hearing this morning about Jamie's plans for the Fish and Wildlife Service. Coming from a State that has over 65 percent of its land in Federal ownership, we have "up close and personal" experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other Federal agencies. What isn't owned by the Federal government is controlled in one way or another through the Endangered Species Act. Idaho currently has 26 endangered and threatened, proposed and candidate species, so the Fish and Wildlife Service plays a large role in the lives of virtually every Idahoan.

While I recognize that the Service has made an effort to improve the way it works in Idaho, it still has a long way to go. We still have decisions being made by managers back in D.C. and regional offices who have little or no knowledge of the local situation on the ground. And we still have decisions being made with little or no input from the State, local communities or stakeholders. It's my hope that under the leadership of a new Director, that will change.

I will be particularly interested to hear Jamie's perspective on the reauthorization of ESA. Senator Chafee and I have been working on a comprehensive bill to improve the ESA since January of 1995. The Administration has been involved from the beginning and Jamie has played an important part in our discussions. On a personal note, I can tell you that we have felt her absence from the negotiating table this year. I'm pleased to say that I believe that we are extremely close to reaching an agreement with the Administration on a bill -- a bill that I believe will achieve meaningful reform of the ESA and will improve the protections for species without putting communities at risk. I hope that Jamie will address her views on ESA reform and the role that she can play to make an improved ESA the law of the land.

I will also be asking Jamie to address some of the very difficult wildlife issues that we are facing Idaho. Just last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft EIS on the reintroduction of the Grizzly Bear into the Selway-Bitteroot Idaho and adjacent Montana. I am deeply troubled by the proposal to release this dangerous animal into Idaho without adequate consultation with the State wildlife officials, local communities, and stakeholders. I hope that the Service will make a greater effort to work with the State of Idaho before any Grizzly Bear is released into the State.

The Service also recently announced the proposed listing of the Bull Trout, disregarding ongoing efforts by the State and members of the regulated community to develop a conservation plan that would preclude the need to list the species. Certainly, it is important to conserve and recover the Bull Trout, but it is far from clear that a listing of the species under the ESA is the best way of accomplishing that objective.

The citizens of Owyhee County who have been dealing with the prospect of the possible listing of the Bruneau Hot Springs Snail have similar concerns. They have been working to put together a plan to preserve habitat and water supply for the Snail so that a listing would be unnecessary, but the Service continues to hold out the threat of a listing decision. Alienating the communities that have to live with endangered and threatened species won't make the law work better and it won't help save species. Instead, I believe that the Service should be working to create opportunities for citizens like those in Owyhee County and around the Selway-Bitterroot to take affirmative actions on their own initiative to preserve species. The citizens of Idaho have shown that they're willing to step up to the plate, if they would just be given the chance. So, I hope that the new Director will work together with the State and the citizens of Idaho to come up with a better approach to recover species like the Bull Trout and the Bruneau Hotsprings Snail.

I look forward to hearing Jamie's testimony and to continuing to work with her in upcoming months on ESA and other fish and wildlife issues.