Walden Backs Bipartisan ESA Modernization Measure; Says "32-Year-Old Law Needs Fixing"
Monday, September 19, 2005
KLAMATH FALLS, OR - Congressman Greg Walden's work to modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will take on new focus today when he, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) unveil a bipartisan 74-page revision of the Law at a press conference at the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento. Walden will then travel to Klamath Falls, Oregon, for a regional press conference to announce the proposed revisions. The ESA was established in 1973 and has not been updated significantly since.
"This 32-year-old law needs the fix that we're offering in a bipartisan way today. It's time to make the federal agencies charged with administering this law open up their process to the public. It's time to set standards to make sure the data they use represent the best scientific data available. It's time to make sure that state governors have a direct role to bring their vast resources into the process. It's time to reach out to private property owners in order to protect their rights and encourage their participation in recovery efforts. And it's time to make sure no region of the country ever suffers again as the Klamath Basin did when faulty decisions by the government led to disaster," said Walden.
"The Klamath Basin is ground zero in the fight to improve the Endangered Species Act," Chairman Pombo said. "People throughout the area, and in many other parts of America, have been affected by this law's dangerous, unintended consequences. Congressman Walden has led the charge in our nation's capital to strengthen the ESA's scientific standards so that we avoid the consequences of poor decisions like the one to shut off water to Klamath Basin farmers and ranchers in 2001. This bill will do just that and more, and with Greg's leadership, I am confident that we will win support in the Congress."
The measure, HR 3824, titled the "Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005," requires the government to use "the most accurate, reliable, and relevant" scientific data available in all of its decisions. It also requires the government to "establish criteria that must be met to determine which data constitute the best available scientific data" and emphasizes the need to use empirical and peer reviewed data when making decisions regarding species listing and recovery efforts.
"When it comes to the fate of a species or the fate of a region, we want to make sure that government scientists are relying on sound data, that all of the information in their decisions is made public and accessible on the internet, and that there are standards in place governing the process. Otherwise, the public is kept in the dark and we run the risk of decisions based on data and assumptions that may not pass the test of peer review," added Walden.
"Along with many parts of my Congressional District, the Klamath area represents one of the more obvious cases of the dysfunctional application of the Endangered Species Act. As such, I am pleased to be working with my colleagues, Chairman Pombo and Congressman Walden, on strengthening the Act so that species can be recovered using the best scientific data available. Under the new recovery plan structure dictated by the 'Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act,' more resources are focused on bringing species back from the brink of extinction while creating more transparency in the process for those whose land is affected," said Congressman Cardoza (D-CA).
The proposed law requires the government - for the first time - to prioritize listed species most in need of recovery, develop timelines and recovery strategies based on those priorities, and report on those efforts to the Congress and the public on a regular basis.
Walden went on to say, "If you're serious about saving species from extinction, and you have limited resources and time, then it only makes sense to require prioritization of which species need help first. Following prioritization, it is critical that agencies develop recovery plans based on the order of need and based on the best available science. This much-needed update to the law requires all of that, and more.
"We also call on the agencies to work closely with private land owners in a new partnership to develop 10, 20 and 30-year conservation plans. Species in need do not recognize the distinction between private and public lands. And under this law, the government will not only provide new incentives to help private land owners with conservation efforts, but the measure also provides compensation to land owners who would be forced to stop using their property.
"It's not right to think that the public's interest in protecting species should be the sole burden of private land owners. If the public, through the laws of the federal government, wants costly actions to occur on private land, then the public must be willing to step up and help compensate private land owners where appropriate for their loss.
"Our over-arching goal with these revisions is to make the law more successfully achieve the goals that were established 32 years ago when it was enacted. Through the fixes in this legislation we improve the standards for data. We put sunshine on the process by making all the information used in the government's decisions available to the public on the internet. We establish a clear and formal role for the governors, private land owners, Tribal land owners and local governments. We prioritize the work of the government to do the most for species most in need. And we set realistic timelines for actions and decisions.
"If adopted, these modest changes will bring tangible and positive results for the environment and the people we represent."