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 hearing titled, “Legislative Hearing on a Discussion Draft Bill, the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018.”

The legislative hearing focused on the draft legislation that was released by Barrasso. The discussion draft reauthorizes the ESA for the first time since 1992.

The discussion draft emphasizes elevating the role of states and increasing transparency in the implementation of the ESA. It also prioritizes resources to better meet its conservation goals and provides regulatory certainty to promote conservation and recovery activities. The draft legislation has received broad support from stakeholders, state and local governments, and conservation organizations.

The hearing featured testimony from The Honorable Matt Mead, governor of the State of Wyoming; Bob Broscheid, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife; and Matthew J. Strickler, Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

For more information on the witnesses’ testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, we will consider the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018. 

“I would like this discussion draft to serve as the foundation for a bipartisan effort to modernize the Endangered Species Act.

“If we work together, Republican and Democrat, we can ensure that this important law fulfills the full conservation potential, and works better for species as well as for people.

“Congress last reauthorized the ESA with amendments of substance in 1988 – 30 years ago.

“Even the U.S. Constitution has been amended more recently than the Endangered Species Act.

“Stakeholders are making it clear that the Endangered Species Act can be improved.

“A major goal of the Endangered Species Act is the recovery of species to the point that protection under the statute is no longer necessary.

“Since the ESA was signed into law, only 54 out of 2,393 species listed in the U.S. and foreign countries have been delisted because they have recovered.

“That is less than three percent.

“As a doctor, if I admit 100 patients to the hospital and only three recover enough under my treatment to be discharged, Governor, I would deserve to lose my medical license with numbers like that.

“When it comes to the ESA, the status quo is not good enough.

“We must do more than just list species and leave them on life support but that is what we are doing now.

“We need to see them recovered.

“In June of 2015, as then-chairman of the Western Governors’ Association, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead took on the challenge of identifying opportunities to modernize the ESA.

“He launched the WGA’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative.

“Three years later, Governor Mead’s groundbreaking initiative has facilitated a bipartisan dialogue of stakeholders from across the political spectrum.

“They have resulted in three annual reports, the adoption of a bipartisan WGA policy resolution, and the adoption of bipartisan WGA policy recommendations.

“This month, I released a discussion draft, the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018, and it’s based on the WGA’s principles and policies.

“Earlier this year, I received a supportive letter from the WGA signed by its chair and vice chair, Republican Governor Daugaard of South Dakota and Democratic Governor Ige of Hawaii.

“It commended our effort to address ‘This polarizing topic in an inclusive, thoughtful manner.’

“It noted, ‘The proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues.’

“It continued, ‘The proposed bill is generally consistent with the WGA recommendations, and WGA offers its support for the portions of the bill that are consistent with existing Western Governors’ policy.’

“The discussion draft was also shaped by input from two EPW committee hearings last year.

“We heard from a diverse, bipartisan group of witnesses and panelists, including former Democratic Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal, and fish and wildlife directors from across the country.

“Each of these witnesses and panelists acknowledged that the Endangered Species Act could work better.

“Many believed the foundation established by the Western Governors’ Association was a good starting point for modernizing the Act.

“The discussion draft elevates the role of states in partnering with the federal government to implement the Endangered Species Act.

“It affords states the opportunity to lead wildlife conservation efforts, including through the establishment of recovery teams for listed species, and developing and implementing recovery plans.

“It provides for increased regulatory certainty, so stakeholders are incentivized to enter into voluntary conservation and recovery activities.

“It increases transparency.

“It codifies a system for prioritizing species listing petitions, so limited resources flow to the species most in need.

“Over the 45 year life of the Endangered Species Act, the capacity of state wildlife agencies has grown significantly.

“According to the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, states now spend over $5.6 billion on conservation and employ approximately 240,000 people and volunteers.

“Of that number, over 50,000 are employees, including over 11,000 degreed wildlife biologists, over 10,000 wildlife law enforcement officers, and 6,000 employees with advanced education degrees.

“Combined, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service employ only 11,661 people. 

“So the substantial resources of the states are not located in Washington DC.

“These state agencies are in the field everyday working to protect wildlife.

“The draft bill has received broad support from conservation and stakeholder groups alike.

“Over 100 organizations have already written to the committee to express their support of this effort.

“I look forward to working with the members of this committee and the larger stakeholder community to find a bipartisan pathway to meaningful modernization of the Endangered Species Act based on WGA’s recommendations.”

Background Information:

On July 2, 2018, Barrasso released the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 discussion draft.

Barrasso has worked with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in drafting the legislation. The bipartisan WGA has stated that the chairman’s discussion draft legislation is generally consistent with the WGA recommendations for modernizing the ESA and includes provisions inspired by the association’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, led by Governor Mead. In a letter from the WGA, the association wrote of the draft bill:

“The Western Governors’ Association appreciates the Chairman’s willingness to productively engage with Governors, and that the Chairman has approached this polarizing topic in an inclusive, thoughtful manner. The proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues.”