THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES RECOVERY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - September 29, 2005)
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, we heard about Theodore Roosevelt. Indeed, 100 years ago this year, Theodore Roosevelt created the Great Forest Reserves. He also created the Klamath Wildlife Refuge. He created the forest reserves for both the future home building needs of the country and for water, if we read his statements, and, of course, for nature as well.
He created the wildlife refuge in the Klamath Basin to ensure that we would have healthy wildlife populations for generations to come; and, indeed, the wildlife refuge is home to the greatest concentration of bald eagles in the United States, in the lower 48.
Ninety-six years after he created that refuge, this Federal Government made a decision to shut the water off to 1,200 farm families in that basin based on the Endangered Species Act and interpreted by the government scientists without peer review, without peer review. When the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the decisions, they said the agency made mistakes in the outcome under the Endangered Species Act; and further they went on to say that those decisions put in jeopardy potentially those very species, the sucker fish in the Upper Klamath Lake and the Coho Salmon in the Klamath River. It potentially could have damaged both of those.
This act changes that. This act changes that, because we put into law for the first time really clear criteria and guidance about science. And unlike the substitute that will be offered soon, we allow a full public process, a 1-year timeline for the Secretary to further define the criteria of the science. We do not define it in the statute; we give guidance and then there will be a full public process. We require empirical data and peer review and the Secretary to have that opportunity, and peer review is certainly important. The other alternative does not do that. It sets it in standard. It is politicians writing it. Science is critical.
Let me talk about the private property rights. I believe in them. When the government says it is going to build a highway across your property, the Constitution says the government has to pay you for it. The ESA is the environmental highway across your property.
But it does not open the door as a blank check to developers to go out and pick the most sensitive wildlife habitat area in the country and say, I am going to build a $50 million hotel and casino here. Not at all.
Let us go to the law that we are proposing. Page 15, open your manuals, sub (C): ``The foregone use would be lawful under State and local law and the property owner has demonstrated the property owner has the means to undertake the proposed use.''
It eliminates the speculative things that people were concerned about. We heard that. This is an improvement. This clearly says that.
And there is no double-dipping. This section says you cannot come back and get a second bite at the same apple, so you have to follow State and local zoning ordinances and laws, you have to prove you are financially capable of undertaking the activity, and the government has to give you an answer when you propose to do something on your private, private, property here.
That is one of the great things about this country. We can talk about the bald eagle, and I am a big fan of them, but one of the underpinnings of our great democracy is our private property rights. In the case of the Klamath Basin, in many respects they were taken away when their water was cut off and 1,200 farm families were left destitute.
I believe in recovery, I believe in species, and I think what we are changing in this bill will build new partnerships that will bring landowners and the government together like never before, that respects the rights of private owners of property, and will actually result in increased recovery of species and habitat.
Mr. Chairman, I urge approval of the underlying bill.
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, first of all, to respond to my colleague from Washington, a simple deed restriction takes care of that. They do not go through this and pay and pay and pay and pay. They put it in the deed when they cut the deal, and they pay fair and just compensation for taking somebody's property. That would be stupid to do that over and over. They do that in the deed, and that is a restriction that carries with the property.
Let me talk about a couple of the differences between these two plans and why I support the underlying Pombo bill. Among other things, section 10, page 18, they give 3 years, the government, to come up with a recovery plan. Our plan says 2 years. So if they want to recover species, we say get it done in 2 years with the recovery plan; they say 3.
If my colleagues want to talk about spending, they create a new science board. GS15s, section 20 in the bill, $1 million a year. CBO says we will compensate private property owners to the tune of maybe $6 million in the first 5 years. That is all they score out. This, $1 million a year for bureaucrats, and private property owners are left carrying their own costs. That is not fair and right in America.
So if the Members want bigger bureaucracy, pay GS15s here in Washington, a total of $1 million combined over the year, and they get just as much as we are talking about trying to help out the private property owners.
And if they ask the government for some sort of safe harbor for entering into a habitat conservation program, basically they get back a written determination under our provision that prevents them from being prosecuted, from the government's coming back and double-timing them, saying, yes, go ahead and we will not prosecute if you do everything you said you were going to do. Under the alternative, as I read it, whatever they do, they would have to get an incidental take permit and then they still do not have any kind of protection from the government's coming back again after them.
So what we are trying to do is create cooperative partnerships with private landowners through new conservation programs and give certainty over 10-, 20-, and 30-year periods to recover species and set up recovery programs that would come together in 2 years, not 3, and provide for compensation when somebody loses their farm or a portion thereof just as if a highway ran through it.
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