Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement for Hearing on USFWS Proposed 2023 Budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday May 18, 2022, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, we again welcome Martha Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, before our committee to discuss President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal for that agency.

“We know that budgets are a reflection of priorities. The President’s most recent budget request includes nearly $2 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service — a much-needed funding increase that would go a long way to further the Service’s mission of conserving, protecting, and enhancing our nation’s wildlife and habitats.

“This 25 percent increase in funding over 2022 enacted levels in President Biden’s first full budget proposal is in stark contrast to the almost 15 percent proposed cut in President Trump’s first budget. Providing the agency with historic funding is certainly justified.

“After years of underfunding the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency’s mission has never been more important. Why you might ask? Well, let’s look at the science. In February, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming report. It finds that among other perils, climate change continues to cause severe biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. This is only going to worsen as climate change intensifies and its impacts put greater stress on habitats and on the species that call them home.

“And that’s not all. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum stated that biodiversity loss is among the top three risks to humanity due to its irreversible consequences for our environment and our economy as well.

“Earlier this week, I toured South Bethany Beach — one of the several Delaware beaches severely eroded by storms over the past several weeks. People travel from all over to enjoy our five-star beaches and to view species like piping plovers and red knots. The Fish and Wildlife Service plays a critical role in preserving these versatile habitats.

“To that end, the President’s latest budget proposes nearly $600 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System — a $79 million increase compared to fiscal year 2022 levels. This system consists of 568 refuges in all fifty states and territories and provides habitat for more than 280 threatened and endangered species. Delaware is fortunate to boast two national wildlife refuges — Bombay Hook and Prime Hook — which are internationally recognized as premier birding locations. I am glad that the President’s budget prioritizes stewardship of these public lands.

“In addition to including robust funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System, President Biden’s budget prioritizes species conservation. The budget proposes $356 million for its ecological services program to conserve imperiled species — an increase of approximately 25 percent over fiscal year 2022 enacted levels. The Fish and Wildlife Service would utilize this funding in close partnership with private landowners, states, tribes, non-profit organizations, and other federal agencies. The Service would also use this funding to improve its efficiency in reviewing and permitting infrastructure projects — an outcome I know we all support.

“While this request represents a healthy increase over fiscal year 2022 enacted levels for recovering threatened and endangered species, we must also acknowledge the decades of chronically underfunding the Endangered Species Act.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has a backlog of approximately $49 billion in recovery activities for threatened and endangered species. This is likely not a problem that Congress can fix through the annual appropriations process. My hope is that our committee can continue to seek out solutions to address this backlog.

“The President’s budget also reflects the urgency of addressing climate change and transitioning to a clean energy future, while also protecting wildlife. It calls for nearly $28 million for activities associated with energy development including $8 million to support the expeditious review and permitting of clean energy projects. This investment is critical to ensuring that our clean energy projects move forward in a way that minimizes the impacts on wildlife.

“When it comes to meeting the President’s all-of-government climate goals, I am also pleased to see that this budget includes more than $16 million to assist in transitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service’s vehicle fleet to zero emission vehicles by 2035.

“Lastly, I also want to express my strong support for the budget’s inclusion of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s science applications program. The request of more than $57 million for this non-regulatory program would support the continued development of plans with partners to conserve landscapes and species across our nation.

“We look forward to hearing more from Director Williams today on how the President’s 2023 budget would support the work she is overseeing at the Fish and Wildlife Service.”