Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee oversight hearing on “Conservation, Consultation, and Capacity: State Views on the Need to Modernize the Endangered Species Act.”

The hearing featured testimony from Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Larry Voyles, the director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the former president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; and Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

For more information on their testimonies click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee continues its efforts to consider feedback from state officials on the need to modernize the Endangered Species Act.

“The Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973 to conserve species identified as endangered or threatened with extinction and to conserve the ecosystems upon which those species depend.

“State governments, particularly their state fish and wildlife agencies, play a central role in fulfilling the Endangered Species Act’s mission.

“Some have tried to argue that the federal government, not the states, is the only entity capable of saving endangered species.

“That the states should take a back seat on wildlife conservation for species at risk of extinction.

“Endangered species don’t care whether the federal government, or a state government, protects them. They just want to be protected.

“Combined, our nation’s 50 state fish and wildlife agencies are a formidable wildlife conservation machine.

“Since enactment of the Endangered Species Act almost 45 years ago, state fish and wildlife agencies have enhanced their staff, expertise, habitat management techniques, science capability, relationships with private landowners and local communities, and political support. 

“Again, these are the state fish and wildlife agencies

“According to a 2014 to 2015 survey of state fish and wildlife agencies conducted by the Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, our states’ wildlife conservation machine is comprised of 50,000 highly-trained and highly-motivated employees, including 11,000 degreed wildlife biologists; 10,100 law enforcement officers; 6,000 employees with advanced degrees; 2,211 employees solely dedicated to educating and informing the public about wildlife conservation issues.

“An additional 190,000 volunteers nationwide devote their time and energies to wildlife conservation in support of the state agencies.

“In recent years, state governments and their state fish and wildlife agencies have increasingly voiced concerns that the Endangered Species Act isn’t living up to its conservation potential.

“So have counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers and ranchers, and other stakeholders.

“The Endangered Species Act impacts us all. 99.4 percent of all of the counties in the United States are home to at least one species listed as endangered.

“That’s according to a recent analysis of Fish and Wildlife Service data by the National Association of Counties.

“So we must all be concerned when the Endangered Species Act is not living up to its conservation potential.

“We are fortunate that national and regional stakeholder groups have already been working for several years in bipartisan ways to identify challenges with the Endangered Species Act and opportunities to make the statute work better.

“In March 2016, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies adopted a set of principles to modernize implementation of the Endangered Species Act to better promote fish and wildlife conservation, and to better facilitate the participation of landowners and other stakeholders.

“In June 2016, the Democrat and Republican Western Governors Association unanimously adopted the Western Governors’ Association’s Endangered Species Act policy under the leadership of Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

“The Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Western Governors Association, other bipartisan groups, and individual stakeholders consistently hit on three themes when they discuss ways to modernize the Endangered Species Act.

“Conservation; how can the Act better, number one, incentivize conservation activities to avoid listing of species as endangered or threatened, and , number two, to recover species when they are listed as endangered or threatened?

“Consultation; how can the Act better facilitate the federal government’s consultation with state and local governments so that decision-making is based on the best available information, and state and local capacity is adequately leveraged?

“And capacity; how can the Act provide sufficient resources to fulfill the mission of the Act, and better allocate those resources to species most in need? 

“According to feedback from across the nation and across the political spectrum, modernization of the Endangered Species Act in these areas could lead to better outcomes for imperiled species, for government entities, for private parties, and for other stakeholders.

“I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses about commonsense, bipartisan opportunities to modernize and strengthen the Endangered Species Act to make it work better for wildlife and for people.”