Opening Remarks of Del. Madeleine Z. Bordallo Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Oversight Hearing on H.R. 767: The Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance and Immediate Response Act
This morning's hearing on H.R. 767, the Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance and Immediate Response Act, or REPAIR ACT, will shed light on a growing problem which threatens the ecological integrity of the entire National Wildlife Refuge System, and discuss a potential solution to address this problem.
As the delegate from the island territory of Guam, no one need remind me of the environmental havoc that can be wrought by the arrival of even just one invasive species. The unintentional release on Guam of brown tree snakes after World War II unleashed an animal which has since decimated native bird populations.
Regrettably, several birds endemic to Guam, such as the Guam Rail, are now listed as threatened or endangered. Even worse, several other native birds, including the Mariana Fruit Dove and the Guam Flycatcher, have since become extinct and disappeared from the island ecology of Guam. These irreplaceable losses have cut deeply across our proud Chamorro customs and traditions as environmental stewards.
With this experience in mind, I shudder to think of the potential environmental calamity that might befall our National Wildlife Refuge System - our only system of Federal lands dedicated exclusively for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife - if we remain complacent to this pernicious threat which is spiraling out of control.
The $8.9 million requested by President Bush in his Fiscal Year 2008 budget to support invasive species activities on refuges is a paltry amount when compared to annual invasive species costs to the Refuge System estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as approaching $300 million.
Clearly, we must do more. I commend our colleague from Wisconsin and co-chair of the House National Wildlife Refuge Caucus, Congressman Ron Kind, for introducing his thoughtful, common sense legislation, and for his efforts to bring greater attention to this important issue. I also commend his fellow Refuge Caucus co-chair, Congressman Jim Saxton, for being an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The matching grant strategy that would be authorized through H.R. 767 would provide an effective tool for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop partnerships among federal and non-federal stakeholders to eradicate, control or mitigate invasive species on both refuge lands and adjoining non-federal lands.
Encouragement of such a "landscape" approach is long overdue to effectively address this threat.
Other important features in H.R. 767 include new grants to states to assess invasive species priorities, and new authority for the Secretary of the Interior to provide immediate assistance whenever new infestations occur. Both provisions should help focus activities to where they might have the greatest positive impact.
In closing, none of us should think that invasive species are a problem that will solve itself. If anything, this problem is likely to become even more acute under virtually any climate change scenario.
But if we want to have a vibrant, healthy and biologically diverse Refuge System in the future, action is needed today to address invasive species, or we risk losing much of the fish and wildlife habitat we have protected for the last 100 years.