Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a legislative hearing to examine the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today’s hearing.

“I also want to thank Senators Heinrich and Blunt for attending along with our witnesses, and I look forward to hearing from each of you.

“I appreciate that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is represented today.

“Just recently, I toured the Oglebay Good Zoo in Wheeling, West Virginia, which is accredited by the AZA.

“The Good Zoo houses 20 species that are deemed rare or endangered and its staff are doing valuable work on research to inform conservation of these animals.

“Speaking of zoos, here in Washington, the administration and Congress should pursue bipartisan policies to preserve our nation’s public lands, wildlife, and ecosystems.

“Our environment, our natural resources, and access for sportsmen are legacies we have been entrusted with safeguarding for future generations of Americans.

“Today’s hearing is focused on legislation introduced by Senators Heinrich and Blunt, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and I thank them for their advocacy.

“The bill has broad support on both sides of the aisle, as well as support from the stakeholder community, including hunters and anglers, conservation organizations, and industry.

“I am eager to learn more about the legislation through today’s hearing.

“As I understand it, the goal of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is to provide funding to states to carry out conservation efforts that will recover species as well as prevent listing additional species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“As part of this discussion today, I want to emphasize, for me, the importance of state-driven conservation.

“Conservation is most effective when led by state and local entities, in cooperation with voluntary efforts by private land owners.

“These are the people that know their habitats, communities, and local economies best.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act provides each state the flexibility to tailor their conservation strategies to meet its specific needs.

“West Virginia is home to 1,233 species of greatest conservation need.

“With state-driven efforts, the unique needs of each of these species can be addressed through conservation efforts that will help recover declining populations.

“As I do when I evaluate all legislation under consideration by the Committee – my focus will continue to be providing states with the flexibility to addressing their unique needs and circumstances. 

“As introduced, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act relies on revenue collected from environmental-related violations and enforcement actions to help address its cost.

“As I understand it, the bill will still result in $14 billion in direct, mandatory spending over a ten-year period.

“I think this is an issue that we need to consider against the background of the growth of our debt and deficit during the pandemic response, especially in light of the $4 trillion package that has been introduced and is under consideration.

“We also need to consider how effective any new conservation efforts will be if the administration continues to pursue its rollback of sensible ESA regulations, which may serve to actually undermine investments in conservation.

“In particular, I am deeply concerned with Fish and Wildlife Service’s revisiting of changes made to implementation of the ESA under the previous administration.

“These rollbacks will set us back in achieving our conservation goals by increasing costs and burdens of doing the right thing.

“Specifically, the decision to rescind the 2020 regulation defining the term ‘habitat’ for purposes of designating critical habitat under ESA.

“Leaving ‘habitat’ undefined creates uncertainty for private landowners on whom species recovery depends.

“In any discussion on conservation, I believe it is important to address the need for common sense reforms to the ESA.

“Cooperation with states and landowners is key for species recovery.

“Under the ESA, we should ensure that we balance the interests of Americans and their livelihoods with protecting species facing population declines.

“I look forward to today’s discussion on proactive wildlife and habitat conservation solutions.

“And I thank you again for holding this hearing, and I thank my fellow senators for being with us today.” 

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