October 13, 2005 INHOFE DISAPPOINTED WITH CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATION Designation for the Arkansas River Shiner Only Shines More Light on the Immediate Need for ESA Modernization WASHINGTON, DC - Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, today expressed his disappointment with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the Arkansas River Shiner fish. Critical habitat designations have featured prominently in recent discussions about Endangered Species Act (ESA) modernization. “I am disappointed that the Fish and Wildlife Service has made this designation, but recognize the constraints the Service works under as a result of the pervasive litigation over the critical habitat provisions in the Endangered Species Act,” Senator Inhofe said. “Today’s Fish and Wildlife Service ruling on critical habitat for the Arkansas River shiner is an improvement over previous proposals. However, due to a court-mandated deadline, the Service did not have enough time to finish work begun with affected organizations on voluntary partnerships to conserve the fish in lieu of critical habitat designation. These types of cooperative arrangements always provide better results than command-and-control regulations. I am pleased that these stakeholders are continuing to work with the Service on these plans. The situation only reinforces the need for meaningful changes to the Endangered Species Act so that on-the-ground conservation measures are not trumped by pointless litigation.” Statutory changes to the critical habitat provisions of ESA carry widespread and bipartisan support and were first discussed during the Clinton Administration. In issuing the Arkansas River Shiner regulation, the Bush Administration Department of the Interior agreed stating, “In 30 years of implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Service has found that the designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while consuming significant amounts of available conservation resources. The Service believes that additional agency discretion would allow our focus to return to those actions that provide the greatest benefit to the species most in need of protection.” Finally, the need for change was resoundingly echoed by more than 400 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted for at least one of two proposals to eliminate critical habitat and replace it with a recovery-based system. Senator Inhofe, with several other Senate Republicans and Democrats, requested a study last May on critical habitat to help frame a new consensus-based approach. That study was to have been completed last month and to date, the organization conducting the study has not held its first meeting.