Opening Statement of Ranking Member Carper: Oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing, “Oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to begin today by reciting one of my favorite quotes.

‘Along the way I’ve learned so much – especially that no one ever really wins by winning everything, [and] that bipartisan solutions are always the lasting ones.’

“That quote is from none other than U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Secretary Rob Wallace, the witness we have before us today. Mr. Wallace, I’m so grateful that you could be here with us. Thank you for joining us. I think all of us should take a moment and heed those words of wisdom. If we all took a page from your book, this place would be better for it – this committee, this Congress and our country.

“For starters, I know we can all agree on the importance of promoting urban national wildlife refuges, like our two in Delaware. Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuges are treasures in our state, and we are proud that people travel from near and far to visit them for a variety of reasons.

“As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works to enhance access to these special places, I hope we can work together to ensure adequate law enforcement at our refuges, and all refuges. I also want to thank you for your assistance on issues of importance for the First State National Historical Park.

“Collaborative species conservation is another bipartisan priority. I think we can all agree that it is better to conserve species – such as the monarch butterfly – before these species require Endangered Species Act protections. I look forward to hearing Mr. Wallace’s thoughts on these issues of bipartisan interest.

“I must, however, also express my continued concerns with actions the Trump administration is taking that I believe will harm fish and wildlife. The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the benefit of the American people.

“Unfortunately, this administration has proposed, and in some cases already finalized, regulations that are not in the spirit of that mission. Specifically, I fail to see how Endangered Species Act regulations finalized last year will better ‘conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.’

“Just last week, the administration released its proposed Migratory Bird Treaty Act rule. This proposal, which has been met with strong bipartisan opposition, breaks with every precedent of the law and caters solely to industry, not to the ‘the American people’ as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission states it should.

“Recent reports suggest that the Department of the Interior is preparing nearly 100 additional policy changes for 2020. To be clear, I do not know what all of those policy changes could be. But given this administration’s track record, we have reason to expect that these policy changes will be met with some disagreement from Democrats on this committee and in Congress, along with conservation groups and other stakeholders.

“As we look ahead, Assistant Secretary Wallace, I hope you can assure our committee that any upcoming policy changes will be more thoughtful, careful and inclusive of all perspectives than some of the previous changes I have mentioned. We have to remember that our natural resources are precious, and in many cases, once they are gone, they are gone forever.

“If there are indeed scores of policies changes on the horizon, I urge the administration to work with states and all stakeholders on those policies. Because conservation policy works best when we work together – and, as Mr. Wallace said, ‘the bipartisan solutions are the lasting ones.’”