Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.   

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “Examining Innovative Solutions to Control Invasive Species and Promote Wildlife Conservation.”

The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Brian Nesvik, chief game warden of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department; Mr. Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund; Mr. Jim Kurth, acting director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Dr. Jamie K. Reaser, executive director for the National Invasive Species Council Secretariat; and Mr. David Ullrich, chairman of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today’s hearing will explore innovative solutions to control invasive species and promote wildlife conservation.

“Not long ago, Google and Uber were nouns and verbs yet to be discovered, and Amazon was a rainforest in South America.

“Today, we ‘Google’ to search online, we ‘Uber’ to move around a city, and we shop online at Amazon.

“Innovation changes everything.

“Since the turn of the 21st Century, companies like these have rapidly changed our world and transformed every sector of our economy.

“The wildlife conservation sector is no exception.

“Federal and state wildlife agencies, wildlife conservation groups, private technology companies, scientists and researchers, farmers and ranchers, hunters and anglers all are working together to create cutting-edge solutions to  our most pressing wildlife conservation challenges.

“In Wyoming, we have a profound respect for our wildlife.

“We applaud the efforts of innovators to help us better conserve and manage our wildlife at a lower cost.

“Wyoming is one of the most beautiful states in the nation.

“People travel from around the world to come to Wyoming because our state’s natural resources and wildlife are spectacular.

“Wyoming doesn’t take our exquisite natural resources for granted.

“When I was in the state senate in 2005 I helped establish the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust that Governor Freudenthal, who was here testifying a few weeks ago, signed into law.

“Our state wildlife managers grapple with many challenges that innovators can help us solve. 

“For example, poaching is a problem in Wyoming.

“Hundreds of animals are taken illegally each year in the state, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Poaching is a problem in other states too and is pandemic overseas.

“The African elephant population has been reduced by almost 75 percent over the last ten years as poachers seek to cash in on the ivory trade.

“Just this month, it was announced that one of Africa’s last great ‘tusker’ elephants, around 50 years old, with each tusk weighing around 112 pounds, was shot and killed by poachers.

“Over 1,300 African rhinos were poached in 2015 to satisfy demand for rhino horns in countries like China and Vietnam.

“Invasive species also present a threat to native wildlife, water resources, and our landscape.

“Cheatgrass is an invasive species that infests hundreds of millions of acres.

“Cheatgrass threatens soil retention, burdens already-taxed water supplies, provides low-quality forage for wildlife and livestock, and fuels catastrophic wildfires.

“Wyoming also faces challenges from other invasive species, the list goes on and on.

“Invasive species are a problem for the country.

“In Florida, there is the Burmese Python, which can grow to more than 23 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds.

“A few years ago, Senator Nelson brought the skin of a Burmese python to a committee hearing.

“It was a striking demonstration.

“The U.S. Geological Survey says this invasive species has devastated up to 99 percent of the area’s native deer, raccoon, bobcat, and possum populations.

“In the Chesapeake Bay area there is the northern snakehead, which preys on native fish populations.

“The Midwest has the emerald ash borer, which continues to kill millions of ash trees across 29 states.

“Our nation’s innovators are developing cutting-edge technologies to help us effectively fight poaching, better manage wildlife, and control invasive species.

“A 2015 National Geographic article outlined a number of innovative technologies being used to promote conservation of many of the world’s most endangered species, including: crowdfunding to pay for drones that locate poachers; DNA analysis to identify the origin of illicit ivory supplies; deploying thermal imaging placed along perimeters of protected areas to notify authorities of the entry of poachers; and using mobile apps to assist wildlife law enforcement in carrying out their duties.

“In December, the National Invasive Species Council co-hosted The Summit on Overcoming the Invasive Species Challenge, which publicized innovations to fight invasive species, including: a fish passage that automatically extracts invasive fish from streams; genetic tools to curb the spread of invasive organisms; DNA technologies to provide early detection of invasive species; and drones to gain spatially accurate, high-resolution imagery for the detection and monitoring of specific invasive species.

“So I look forward to hearing many innovative ideas for conserving wildlife and controlling invasive species from our distinguished panelists today.

“I hope this hearing helps to set the stage for developing bipartisan legislation that will promote new innovative solutions to better battle and manage invasive species, conserve wildlife, and limit illegal poaching of rare and valuable species.”