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 hearing entitled, “Examining Biodiversity Loss: Drivers, Impacts, and Potential Solutions.”
Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, and thank you for calling today’s hearing.
“I also want to thank our witnesses for joining us and look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.
“Our nation is abundant with natural beauty and the chairman and I agree wholeheartedly about the importance of conservation.
“It is essential that we preserve our public lands and our ecosystems, while ensuring access to outdoor recreation.
“This committee has a history of passing bipartisan legislation aimed at conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat.
“Just last year, this committee passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, which President Trump signed into law in October.
“Included in the ACE Act was the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (Chesapeake WILD) Act, which created a new $15 million grant program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support habitat restoration in the Bay area.
“The Chesapeake WILD Act—the first federal wildlife conservation grant tailored to benefitting species in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed—has bolstered our state’s growing outdoor recreation industry.
“This important Fish and Wildlife Service program protects vital ecosystems, while also advancing our outdoor industry by supporting populations of birds, fish, and mammals prized by our outdoorsmen, sportsmen, and fishermen.
“And, we all know West Virginia’s $9 billion outdoor recreation industry—which supports 91,000 jobs in our state—is good for the soul and good for the economy.
“Our anglers and sportsmen in turn fund conservation through Pittman-Robertson Act programs backed by the federal excise taxes on ammunition and fishing tackle.
“This creates a virtuous cycle: improvements to our natural heritage encourage more people—including sportsmen—to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, leading to more investment in conservation.
“Enhanced biodiversity from this cycle also benefits other sectors, such as agriculture, by supporting species that benefit mankind in more direct ways – such as pollinators or predators that eat pests.
“Beyond our committee, the Great American Outdoors Act, which I cosponsored, was enacted last Congress and will also provide investments in our public lands to address their maintenance backlogs.
“These investments will yield benefits for ecosystems and free up other tax dollars otherwise spent by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and other federal public land agencies on addressing this deferred maintenance to address priorities, such as wildlife conservation.
“West Virginia is known for being ‘wild and wonderful’ and our state is blessed with abundant natural resources—from forests to mountains to rivers and lakes.
“To showcase our state’s natural beauty—I worked to redesignate the New River Gorge National River to become a new National Park and Preserve.
“Working with local leaders—our hunters and fishermen—economic development folks—and small business owners—we were able to craft a bill that gives the New River Gorge the recognition it deserves while preserving historic hunting and fishing rights.
“I’m proud to say that President Trump signed that bill into law last year—and I’m absolutely thrilled to be sharing this part of Almost Heaven with the rest of the world for generations to come.
“Biodiversity is intrinsic to the natural beauty of our nation and habitat conservation is key to healthy, biodiverse ecosystems.
“Two weeks ago, the Biden administration issued the ‘Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful’ report, which intended to outline steps towards President Biden’s goal of conserving at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, commonly referred to as ‘30 by 30.’
“However, the 24-page document included very few details as to how we can achieve President Biden’s ambitious goal.
“While a number of the core principles—including ‘voluntary and locally led’ approaches to conservationism – outlined in the plan are bipartisan in nature, I have a number of concerns.
“For instance, the report does not even define ‘conservation,’ nor does it specify what lands should be included under that program.
“These questions need to be answered.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the administration in a bipartisan way on these and other issues, but any lasting and meaningful solutions to addressing biodiversity and conservation needs must come from legislation.
“Today, I look forward to our discussion on bipartisan and consensus-driven solutions to these challenges.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.”
# # #