WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Examining Funding Needs for Wildlife Conservation, Recovery, and Management.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Our Committee has held quite a few hearings this Congress on wildlife management issues. At each of these hearings, I noticed one major area of agreement – that wildlife conservation is severely underfunded. States, federal agencies and partners would be able to do far more to protect and recover species with additional financial resources.
“Accordingly, the topic for today’s hearing is an appropriate culmination of our Committee’s consideration of wildlife matters this Congress. As we have heard at our previous hearings, global wildlife populations have fallen by 60 percent since 1970 for many reasons, including pollution, deforestation and climate change. Current rates of species extinction are up to 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction. Once species are gone, they are gone forever. And we do not even know the long-term effects this biodiversity loss will have on our planet. We must act sooner rather than later to address this extinction crisis by developing a comprehensive wildlife funding strategy and finding a way to pay for it.
“I supported both the WILD Act and the HELP for Wildlife Act, each of which reauthorized valuable wildlife conservation programs. However, I believe that Congress may have to go beyond the status quo of simply reauthorizing programs. And while sportsmen and women have contributed a great deal to wildlife conservation, we can no longer rely solely upon their contributions as the only source of dedicated wildlife conservation funding.
“As our Committee wraps up this session of Congress and looks to the next, I hope we will consider a bolder wildlife funding strategy going forward that addresses funding needs for both state-managed and federally-managed species. States and federal agencies all have important roles and responsibilities in conserving and recovering species, and each must be more adequately resourced to properly fulfill them. We also have to ensure that states and agencies appropriately balance the needs of our nation’s endangered wildlife with preventing new Endangered Species Act listings. Both are important and warrant additional funding and attention.
“States and the federal government cannot solve our wildlife funding problems alone though. This has to be an all hands on deck effort. Tribes, private landowners, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders have stepped up, and we need to make sure they can continue to do so.
“Some of our colleagues and witnesses have advocated for an expanded role for states in wildlife conservation and recovery. A meaningful funding solution could actually create an expanded role for states naturally, but without minimizing necessary federal involvement and backstops.
“For example, Delaware’s State Wildlife Action Plan includes 692 species with conservation needs, including 18 that are federally threatened or endangered. Delaware has experienced remarkable success working with federal agencies to conserve these imperiled species, and we’ve done so within the framework of the existing Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Delaware both helped restore habitat for endangered Piping Plovers and threatened Red Knots at Fowler Beach and Missipillion Harbor.
“As a result of these restoration activities, Delaware was home to 36 Piping Plover chicks in 2018, the highest number we have had since 2003. These areas also provide habitat for numerous other species, such as Red Knots, Diamond Back Terrapins and Least Terns. Additional marsh, forest and beach restoration activities will benefit all types of species, including birds, reptiles, fish and mammals.
“The existing state-federal partnership works more often than not, as it has in Delaware’s case. With additional, reliable funding for states and federal agencies, Delaware could do even more, hand-in-hand with our federal partners and stakeholders. Habitat restoration activities in Delaware also support ecotourism and a commercial fishing industry, and they prevent coastal flooding. Working to conserve and manage habitat benefits our wildlife, but it also protects our communities, drives our economy and preserves a way of life for many Delawareans.
“I do understand that each state and every species has different needs and challenges, so I look forward to learning more from our panel today. I also stand prepared to work with my colleagues to tackle wildlife funding issues in the 116th Congress. Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together to explore this important topic. And thanks, as well, to our panel of witnesses for bringing their perspectives to bear on this and other related issues today.”