Hearing on the Endangered Species Recovery Act S.1180
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
September 23, 1997

I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing so promptly and making reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") a priority for this Committee. There is probably no issue that has the potential to affect more people in Idaho than the Endangered Species Act. But this isn't just an Idaho issue, or even just a Western issue; it's an issue that affects us all, as individuals, as property owners, and as environmentalists.

Let me begin by saying that I am very proud of the Endangered Species Recovery Act. ESA is an emotional and polarizing issue. But I think we struck the right balance -- between making the Act work better to save species and making the Act work better for people and communities.

We all support the goal of the original ESA -- preserving our rare and unique species and their habitat. Over the past three years, I have heard from thousands of individuals, from Idaho and around the country, and have held five hearings on ESA reauthorization, and throughout that process I have never heard anyone say that they don't want to save species. We just need to do a better job of saving species, without putting communities at risk.

There are over a thousand species on the endangered species list, but fewer than one half of them have recovery plans and many of those plans have never been implemented. The best evidence that the current law isn't working may be the fact that not a single species has recovered as a result of a recovery plan.

We need an ESA that will make advocates out of adversaries. As it's administered today, the ESA separates people from their environment. It invites federal regulators to become land use managers over some of the best stewards of our environment -- our farmers, ranchers, and land owners. And we need their help if we're truly going to save species. Well over half of our endangered species depend on private land.

The ESA must provide more incentives -- more carrots and fewer sticks -- to encourage property owners to become partners in the conservation of our rare and unique species.

We can bring real and fundamental reform to the ESA. We can minimize the social and economic impacts of the ESA on the lives of ordinary citizens. And we can benefit species.

I believe that S. 1180 does just that.

When we started this process just over two years ago, we asked ourselves the question: Should we make a concerted effort to save species? The answer was a resounding yes.

But could we do it without putting people and communities at risk? Again, yes.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today about this important legislation. I am particularly pleased that Senator McClure, one of the authors of the original Act, is here today.



The Problem: The ESA Pits Humans Against Species and Their Environment

The Endangered Species Act ("ESA") was originally enacted in 1973 to conserve endangered species and their habitat. Since then, over one thousand species have been listed as endangered or threatened, but fewer than a handful have been recovered as a result of the ESA. The species "emergency room" is full, but the patients aren't getting the treatment they need. We can and must do a better job.

The fact is we're spending millions of dollars now to save species, with little result. But the human impact is significant. Over the past three years, I have heard from thousands of Idahoans whose lives have been affected by the ESA. I heard from families that can't get mortgages because of the Bruneau Snail; I heard from mill workers who lost their jobs because logging was stopped to preserve habitat for the Spotted Owl; I heard from farmers and ranchers who can't get grazing permits or fear that they will lose their water for irrigation because of the salmon.

The law must do a better job of balancing the needs of species and the needs of people. It must improve the way we protect our rare and unique species; it must recognize the rights of individuals and property owners; and it must provide more incentives to encourage property owners to become partners in the conservation of species. My Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 1180) accomplishes those goals.

The Solution: A Law That Recognizes the Rights of People and Species Too

My Endangered Species Recovery Act brings the focus of the law back to where it should be -- on actually recovering species and removing them from the endangered species list while allowing individuals to use their property. The bill makes significant improvements to each of the major sections of the law.

Bring Better Science to Listing And Delisting Decisions

-- The bill requires the Secretary to use good science.

-- All listing and delisting decisions must be peer reviewed.

-- A species must be delisted when its recovery goal is met.

Provide a Blueprint for Recovery

-- The bill requires recovery plans for all species and sets deadlines for those plans.

-- The bill provides incentives for agreements to implement recovery plans.

-- States can assume responsibility for the development of recovery plans.

Improve the Consultation Process

-- Federal agencies are given greater authority to identify projects that are not likely to adversely affect a species.

-- The bill allows permit applicants to participate in the consultation process.

Expand Incentives for Property Owners

-- The bill gives property owners a variety of new tools to preserve species and habitat, including more flexible conservation plans, no surprises protection, safe harbor agreements and habitat reserve agreements.

Limit Federal Interference on Private Land

-- The bill requires enforcement actions to be based on scientifically valid principles, not assumptions.