Director Ashe, thank you for dedicating your working life to protecting God's species. Thank you taking all the heat that you take. That is a compliment, because it means you are doing something and are fighting for what you promised you would fight for.
If we listen to the folks on the other side of the aisle, and if they were here in Congress when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was considered four decades ago, it never would have been passed into law. A recent poll of the American people shows that 84% support the ESA, which was passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan voice vote in the Senate, and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. All the back door efforts by special interests to undermine the ESA have to stop.
The ESA has a strong record of success, and without it, we might have lost the very symbol of our nation -- the bald eagle. And the ESA helped to save other species, including the lesser prairie chicken, the whooping crane, the California condor, the brown pelican, and the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle. These species are part of America's heritage. They are just as much a part of our heritage as our magnificent rivers, streams, mountains, and forests.
Further, wildlife-related recreation is a significant industry -- accounting for nearly $145 billion in 2011. In addition, native plants and animals can provide life-saving medicines.
I think it is important to note that today we are looking at a series of bills -- eight Republican bills and one Democratic bill. I wanted to say thank you to Senator Booker for introducing his bill to ban inhumane traps in National Wildlife Refuges. I hope we will all work together on that bill.
Today, I received a letter from several organizations that oppose every single Republican bill on the agenda. The groups include: American Bird Conservancy, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Audubon Society, Born Free USA, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Island Institute, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Friend of the Earth, Human Society, National Federation of Fly Fishers, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, Sierra Club, OCEANA, Southern Environmental Law Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, the Wild Earth Guardians, and the Wyoming Wildlife advocates. I ask unanimous consent to enter this into the record.
I would also like to introduce into the record a Denver Post Op-Ed, "Cory Gardner wrong on Greater Sage Grouse," which explains why his legislation is the wrong approach.
Let us work together using the best available science to protect species where and when it makes sense.
I want to say this, Mr. Chairman, while I respect your views, I disagree strongly. We will have hand-to-hand combat on the floor if these bills are voted out of this committee. The Endangered Species Act should not be repealed in this backdoor way.
I look forward to working together to moderate some of these radical bills. If we do not make significant changes, we are going to have to get the American people motivated to weigh in against what the Republicans are trying to do -- repeal the Endangered Species Act.