WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 12, 2024, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (the Service) proposed budget for fiscal year 2025.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, as you know, we are here to discuss President Biden’s fiscal year 2025 budget request for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We always appreciate having Martha Williams, Director of the Service, before our committee. Director Williams, welcome back, and thank you for joining us today.

“We have heard time and again in our committee that wildlife conservation works best — for people and for species — when it’s collaborative, when it’s inclusive and when it’s proactive. Director Williams leads the Service with these thoughts in mind. The president’s fiscal year 2025 budget request also embodies this approach, and we look forward to hearing more about it from Director Williams today.

“The president’s budget request includes $1.9 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s a ten percent increase in funding over fiscal year 2024 enacted levels. This increase — coupled with the investments Congress has made through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — would provide the Service with the support it needs to carry out its many missions.

“Specifically, the president’s proposed budget would support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s work to conserve habitat, combat climate change, address biodiversity loss and maintain our National Wildlife Refuges. All of these initiatives protect our planet while helping to drive our economy. And how would the budget support these efforts, one might ask?

“Well, first, the budget request includes $602 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System. That’s a 14 percent increase from fiscal year 2024 enacted levels. This funding would support habitat conservation and law enforcement, as well as visitor services at over 500 national wildlife refuges across the country.

“Two weeks ago, I visited one of Delaware’s two national wildlife refuges, the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Imperiled species — such as red knot and piping plover birds — call this refuge home. People come from all over the world to see these species in their natural habitat. They also come to hike, to bike and to hunt in these special places. And when they do, they support our local economies. The same is true in refuges in every state across America.

“The administration’s budget request also includes funding increases for programs focused on stemming biodiversity loss, including notable increases for Endangered Species Act planning, consultation and recovery efforts.

“Why are these investments in biodiversity important? Our food systems rely on biodiversity for pest control, pollination and soil fertility. And when our forests and oceans are healthy and biodiverse, they absorb more carbon dioxide. We also rely on biodiverse ecosystems to provide us with clean water.

“For all of these reasons and more, biodiversity loss has significant economic impacts. According to a recent report by JP Morgan, biodiversity loss costs the global economy an estimated 20 trillion dollars per year.

“The fiscal year 2025 budget request also details how the Fish and Wildlife Service is implementing the Inflation Reduction Act by incorporating nature-based solutions into ecosystem restoration. 

“For example, the Service is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ducks Unlimited, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to enhance more than 5,000 acres of wetlands in Arkansas. Specifically, the Service will restore the wetlands’ natural ability to capture, store and release rainwater and mitigate the effects of severe weather events.

“We have seen first-hand in Delaware and in many other states that nature-based solutions work. When Hurricane Sandy damaged the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, the Fish and Wildlife Service restored the refuge with climate resilience in mind. Not only did this restoration effort conserve habitat and benefit endangered species, it also addressed longstanding flooding issues in a nearby community. That’s a win-win outcome and a success worth replicating.

“Furthermore, the budget request builds on our Inflation Reduction Act investments by including funding increases for programs like Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Coastal Program. These programs are focused on improving ecosystem and coastal resiliency through partnerships with states, Tribes and landowners.

“And, the president’s budget request compliments the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law by enabling the Service to continue implementing successful programs like the National Fish Passage Program. This program funds aquatic ecosystem restoration projects while supporting local economies.

“In addition to implementing the agency’s own Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funding, the Service is faced with an increasingly heavy workload as a result of Congress’ investments in other agencies.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s role in the federal permitting process is especially important given the historic passage of these laws. As part of its congressionally mandated responsibilities, the Service must consult with other agencies to ensure that we are deploying the investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — and issuing permits — in a way that does not jeopardize species.

“However, neither the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law nor the Inflation Reduction Act included funding for the Service’s responsibilities related to permitting. So, in other words, Congress increased the number of environmental reviews that the Service must complete without providing the resources necessary to meet this workload.

“Thankfully, the president’s 2025 budget request would provide the Service with adequate resources to improve efficiencies in the environmental review process, while also protecting species. We can and we must do both.

“As our colleagues on this committee often hear me say, ‘we need to find what works and do more of that.’ Having said that, we look forward to hearing more from Director Williams today on what is working — and perhaps what isn’t — and how the president’s 2025 budget will support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s important work.”