On Tuesday, I testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources about one of our nation’s greates conservation laws: the Endangered Species Act.
The committee asked me to testify out of a concern that excessive litigation is preventing efficient implementation of the act and slowing job creation. You can watch my opening remarks below.
While the committee and I have different positions on the issue, Chairman Hastings ran a very productive and respectful hearing. That in itself is refreshing, since so often today, we see a public dialogue that is quite different.
His professional tone and demeanor reminded me of something I first heard from Elizabeth Dole when she was Secretary of Transportation: that it’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.
And I disagree on two key points.
As I said in my testimony, while excessive litigation can be a concern, it's not our greatest challenge in implementing the Act.
Not by a long shot.
The challenges the Service faces in implementing the Act are the critical conservation challenges of our time: the increasing loss and conversion of habitat; the fast-growing human population; an epidemic of invasive species; and the warming of the atmosphere and ocean that is changing the climate and its ecology.
The ESA provides a critical safety net for imperiled fish and wildlife that are under siege from these many conservation challenges. The Act has prevented the extinction of hundreds of species like the bald eagle.
The Act’s success should not be measured simply by the species removed from the list, but also by the relatively few species extinctions occurring in the United States over the four decades since the act was passed.
Service employees and others who help to implement the Act are not “job killers;” in fact, I believe they are exceptional public servants who do an amazing job implementing the Act.
Tuesday’s hearing reminded me of the special obligation that the Service has in carrying out the Act. It also reminded me how thankful I am to be a part of an agency with so many talented and dedicated professionals who carry out critical conservation work every day.