WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing titled “Successful State Stewardship: A Legislative Hearing to Examine S. 614, the Grizzly Bear State Management Act.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by saying that I share your concerns about this year’s record number of human-grizzly interactions that have resulted in serious injury. First and foremost, I hope that everyone involved in those frightening encounters is either on the mend or fully recovered.
“Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, more people have been seeking opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and visit our national parks. Yellowstone is no exception. In fact, nearly one million people visited Yellowstone Park just this past July alone, a two percent rise in visitors compared to July 2019. While this rise in visitors may have contributed to the increase in human-grizzly conflicts in Yellowstone Park, experts suggest that there is no straightforward explanation for the record number of encounters. Consequently, there is likely no straightforward solution.
“As the chairman knows, I believe, in the words of Rob Wallace, that bipartisan solutions are lasting solutions. That’s why I always try to reach across the aisle and find common ground on issues like this one. For instance, I am proud of our bipartisan legislation to authorize a new Theodore Roosevelt genius prize for reducing human-predator conflict, which is included in America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, the ACE Act. The ACE Act also authorizes a new program to compensate farmers and ranchers for losses caused by federally protected predatory species, which would include grizzly bears.
“Over the last several weeks, our staffs have collaborated with our House colleagues on the ACE Act. My hope is that we will be able to get that bill to the president’s desk for signature sometime this month. And if the ACE Act becomes law, it could help to spur innovation in preventing human-grizzly conflicts and address farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns regarding grizzly bears. Having said that, unfortunately, I’m not convinced that the legislation we’re examining today – the Grizzly Bear State Management Act – is the right way to resolve the many years of debate over whether or not the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear continues to warrant Endangered Species Act protections.
“As the senior senator for the state of Delaware, I recognize that grizzly bear management presents unique challenges that much of the country may not understand. I commend the states, local governments, tribes and stakeholders that have faced those challenges and worked diligently over many years to help recover this iconic species.
“I believe that many people across America would agree that the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear is an Endangered Species Act success story in the making. Less than 140 bears were thought to be alive in this Ecosystem when this species was listed as endangered in 1975. Today, experts estimate there are now hundreds living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem alone. With that said, I do not believe that Congress should intervene in the final determination on the recovery of this species – or any species, for that matter.
“Judicial review of agency decisions is central to ensuring that the Endangered Species Act is guided by science and informed by public input. For example, in celebrating the recovery of a species, such as the bald eagle or the Delmarva fox squirrel in my home state, we often look back and reflect on the work that was done to bring that species back from the brink of extinction – but we should also look ahead and take steps to ensure that the species will not require Endangered Species Act protections again in the future. A delisting rule should consider future threats against a species, like lack of genetic diversity or climate change, which is already impacting habitats, migration patterns and food supplies for some species. Judicial review can help ensure the federal government takes future impacts to species into account, and it has done just that in the case of the grizzly bear.
“It is also important to note here that Endangered Species Act protections are only required when state management to protect and recover imperiled species has failed. I have heard from any number of stakeholders who have ongoing concerns about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear’s ability to fully recover and thrive under some state management plans.
“Before closing, I also want to take a moment to elevate the voices of the Tribes who oppose the Grizzly Bear State Management Act. These Tribes have a long-standing, treasured relationship with this particular resource, and their voices deserve to be heard. While I cannot support the legislation we are considering today, again, I do hope our committee will continue to work in a bipartisan way – as we have successfully done in the past – to address human-wildlife conflicts and support species conservation.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and our thanks, also, to our witnesses for joining us today and sharing your experiences and perspectives.”