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Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of the Dicks-Fitzpatrick-Thompson-Hanabusa amendment to delete the Extinction Rider that was improperly added to this legislation. This rider, which has no place in an appropriation bill, prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service from spending any money on listing new plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, designating critical habitat, or upgrading species from threatened to endangered.

This is a big deal to me because Hawaii happens to have the highest number of endangered species of any state in the nation. This is due, in large part, to the unique species that evolved in Hawaii because of its location 2,400 miles from the nearest land mass. In fact, Hawaii's 33 endangered bird species represent 42 percent of the U.S. bird species listed as endangered. All of these live in my district. For example, we have a beautiful endangered forest bird called the Hawaii `Akepa. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, the populations of this bird are currently stable on Hawaii Island, although it is very rare on the island of Maui. The `Akepa and the other 32 Hawaiian bird species listed as endangered are threatened by loss of habitat, a warming climate, and the onslaught of introduced species.

In fact, 69 of the 265 candidate species for addition to the Endangered Species Act--26 percent--are found in Hawaii. Most, like the `Akepa, are found nowhere else in the world.

Another example of an Endangered Species Act success is the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle--or honu as we call it in Hawaii. In the 1970s, before being listed, the Hawaiian green sea turtle was in steep decline because it was regularly hunted and eaten. Since being protected by the Endangered Species Act, the numbers of green sea turtles have increased dramatically--by 53 percent over the past 25 years! Despite this success, the honu remains vulnerable because its primary nesting habitat in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands could be lost to sea level rise caused by climate change.

As members of Congress, we have a special responsibility to protect and be stewards of the land, the water, the air, and the species with which we share this world. There is no recovery from extinction. Each time we lose a unique creature or plant that evolved over thousands or millions of years, we make the world a poorer place and rob future generations.


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