Contact: Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202)-224-9797
Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife and Oversight Subcommittee joint hearing on “Threats to Native Species”
July 8, 2009 – 10:00 a.m.
Good morning. I would like to first welcome Senators Levin and Nelson, who I know care greatly about the topic of this hearing this morning. I think that the protection of our native wildlife from harmful invasive species should receive increased federal attention. I would like to thank the Subcommittee Chairmen for holding this important hearing on potential threats non-native species pose to native wildlife in this country. However, as we chart a course of action we must be prudent and avoid prematurely banning species that pose no threat to the environment.
I understand that the House of Representatives had a similar hearing on this topic in April, in which a specific legislative proposal—H.R. 669—was examined to address the threats of invasive species. It is also my understanding that this legislation received widespread criticism for casting too wide a net on pets, sports fishing and other species that generate billions of dollars in our economy with no demonstrated threat to the environment. I realize that this hearing will not be examining a specific piece of legislation, which I must say makes me skeptical, considering this Committee’s habit of marking up bills without a legislative hearing on the specific proposal--especially one that could put in place a new, cumbersome bureaucratic process for examining the threats without consideration of effective laws already on the books.
Common sense reforms are needed to prevent the importation or breeding of species that would be harmful to our ecosystem; however, these reforms must avoid placing burdensome requirements on the retail and agriculture industries and sportsmen. I appreciate the efforts of environmental groups, mainly the Defenders of Wildlife, in attempting to address the threat posed by non-native species, but I am concerned that their proposal could harm important sectors of our economy.
Any policy that Congress considers should include a reasonable risk analysis process that would take into consideration risk management options for controlling non-native species. It should not adopt a policy that automatically bans species until proven safe. Acknowledging similar risk management processes that are used elsewhere in Federal agencies would effectively address the issue at hand. We don’t need legislation that bans species that we know are safe. Invasives legislation should use existing scientific evidence without requiring industries to unnecessarily spend resources and time completing scientific testing that tells us what we already know: the vast majority of non-native species in the United States are safe and present little or no harm to their surroundings.
Thank you. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.