For Immediate Release
June 23, 1999

Contact: Vicki McCoy
404/679-7287

Statement from Sam Hamilton, Regional Director
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta

"The proposal to list the Alabama sturgeon as an endangered species has generated a substantial amount of erroneous information, and it needs to be corrected. Put another way, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not everyone is entitled to his or her own facts.

"At the top of the list is the concern that listing the sturgeon will stop current activities in the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers, including navigation channel maintenance dredging. Listing the sturgeon will not stop any of these activities, period. There are already four federally listed species in those rivers, one a sturgeon. Adding another will not change anything.

"Funding for Alabama sturgeon research, captive breeding and other activities will not disappear if the fish is placed on the endangered species list. Extensive research and captive breeding abound among listed species  including the California condor, the gray wolf, and the whooping crane, among others.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service accepts any written, and sometimes, oral, statement anytime we have public comment periods on any listing proposal. It was in that vein that we accepted the 1993 Troy State Study on economic impacts as part of the record. Accepting a statement is not to be confused with agreeing with it, and we don't because it simply is not true.

"Good and honest folks across this region have asked why we want to list this fish in the first place. That's a good question, and here is my best answer: Congress gave the Fish and Wildlife Service a specific mandate when it enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973. That mandate requires the Service to enforce the law when our biologists agree that we have employed the best possible science. When a species goes into decline, we need to know why before it becomes a larger problem.

"The Endangered Species Act does not stop economic development. Critics have used that paper tiger for 25 years. No one on Wall Street seems to have heard, because we've had the longest period of prosperity in this country since the end of World War II. Moreover, if one fish can wreck this region's economy, then the four aquatics species that are already on the list in those rivers should have wrecked it fourfold, a long time ago. It didn't happen, and it won't happen."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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Release #:R99-055

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