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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chair, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment.

The Botanic Garden is a national treasure.

The history of the Botanic Garden starts over 200 years ago. Originally, the idea for a Botanic Garden came from George Washington himself.

Congress formally established the Garden in 1820 and it is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America.

The Botanic Garden is dedicated to demonstrating the aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic and ecological importance of plants to the well-being of humankind.

More than 750,000 visitors a year experience the Botanic Garden's plants displays, innovative exhibits, and special programs.

The Botanic Garden maintains 13,000 accessions, which equates to about 26,000 plants.

Its noteworthy collections include medicinal plants, rare species, orchids, carnivorous plants, cacti, bromeliads, cycads and ferns. Some of the plant specimens date back to the Garden's original 1842 founding collection.

There is no better place to gain an understanding of the essential relationship of plants to human life than at the Garden. Through living displays that feature the biodiversity of plants from around the world, the Garden brings to light the many benefits derived from plants including oxygen, food, medicine, fiber, fragrance, shelter, and inspiration.

Education is also a critical mission of the Botanic Garden. It creates opportunities to inspire our visitors to learn about the importance of plants and presents a variety of educational programming to visitors, teachers, and students.

The Botanic Garden partners with the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Wildlife Federation, the National Gardening Association and other domestic and international botanic gardens on its outreach programs to maximize its educational impact.

Mr. Chairman, this botanic collection is a global treasure.

Globally, about one in every eight known plant species is threatened or nearing extinction. In the United States, the figure rises to about three in every ten plant species.

Humans are inextricably interwined with plants and other life forms, locked in a dynamic, co-dependent struggle for survival. It is in our own self-interest to pay them more attention.

Moreover, the Botanic Garden has a backlog of capital renewal and deferred maintenance projects of over $14.5 million, which is $2.5 million more than its total budget in this bill.

If Mr. Gosar's amendment is accepted, it is likely to cost more taxpayer dollars as staff will likely have to be furloughed, the number of deferred maintenance projects will increase, and there will be less educational opportunities for students.

While we have serious fiscal challenges in this country, the U.S. Botanic Garden is not part of the problem.

Let's prosecute Wall Street wrong doings and recoup the billions upon billions used on bailouts rather than pick on the U.S. Botanic Garden.

I urge my colleagues to reject this misguided amendment.

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Ms. KAPTUR. I just want to thank Congressman Honda, the ranking member, for yielding me just a brief moment here to oppose this amendment and put comments on the record.

I oppose the Gosar amendment and the cuts to the United States Botanic Garden. Unless you've actually walked through the aisles and looked at the extraordinary collections, and exhibits, including specimens that preserve the genomes of extinct plants; and if you haven't really understood why medical science depends on many of the medicinal plants that are held there for posterity; and if you haven't really appreciated the importance of the botanical sciences to human life; and if you haven't understood the work of the Botanic Garden that links to hundreds of communities across this country trying to help communities raise food, even inside urban borders and food deserts--then you really can't come to appreciate the importance of the fragility of life and how significant this botanical collection is to our country. This is a collection and capability that has been understood since George Washington's time over decades and indeed centuries. Our predecessors appreciated the importance of botanical sciences to human life even with science as rudimentary as it was at our Nation's founding. The site itself is nestled right adjacent to the Capitol, demonstrating the importance to the American people that those who came before us understood--the importance of the linkage between human life and plant life. Some of the most important scientific breakthroughs that we've had in medicine, for example, come from the plant kingdom.

I think that though the gentleman may have a good goal in mind in trying to handle our accounts in a more responsible way, this is a very irresponsible way to do it. Why? Because if the botanic garden has to cut existing contracts, or if they have to lay off workers, or put off longer deferred main tenancy, in the end what appears to be a cut may actually prove to be a budgetary increase over time in additional costs. Truly this cut is rather draconian cuts to the Architect of the Capitol.

I just wanted to say in a prior iteration of his amendment, the gentleman actually issued a press release saying the Botanic Garden has proven its ability to use tax dollars in a cost-effective and efficient way. I don't know how he might have changed his mind on that, but I think for the good of the country, for the future of medical science, for the linkage of this scientific collection to communities across the country, the Botanical Garden has proven its worth.

I want to thank the gentleman for yielding, and I appreciate the opportunity to place my remarks on the record.

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