Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Today, we will examine a significant piece of conservation legislation, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
“We are fortunate to have an esteemed panel of witnesses before us. Dan Ashe, Collin O’Mara, Sara Parker Pauley, and Jonathan Wood—thank you all for being here today.
“We will also hear from two of our colleagues, Senators Martin Heinrich and Roy Blunt—the sponsors of this bill. I’m pleased to welcome them this morning, and I thank them both for joining us and for their passionate leadership on this issue.
“Our Committee has enjoyed a great bipartisan track record of enacting wildlife conservation legislation over the last several years, such as the WILD Act and the ACE Act. We hope that this hearing will start a discussion to build on that bipartisan record of success.
“A recent report by the United Nations shows that nearly one million species may be pushed to the brink of extinction in the years ahead. That alarming number should serve as a dire warning for all of us to do our part to protect our planet and all of God’s creations that inhabit it.
“Biodiversity loss threatens our economy, our ecosystems, and our health. That’s why the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is needed and why I am grateful to our colleagues and friends who have put so much effort into developing this important piece of legislation. I am eager to work with them on improving it.
“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act aims to provide much-needed resources for wildlife conservation and recovery. With that need in mind, this legislation would provide billions of dollars to states and tribes for those purposes.
“As a recovering governor, I understand that states truly play a leading role in wildlife conservation across our country. In recent decades, my home state—the First State—has made great strides in recovering species like the horseshoe crab, Delmarva fox squirrel, red knot, and piping plover. Few people understand this better than Collin.
“That success in Delaware was made possible by working side-by-side with the Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners. My concern with the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, as drafted, is that it may not sufficiently support this important teamwork.
“In a recent visit to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, for example, I learned that the Northeast region of the Fish and Wildlife Service is spearheading an effort amongst ten states, including Delaware, to prevent the saltmarsh sparrow from reaching the brink of extinction.
“In addition to playing this important coordinating role for proactive wildlife conservation, the Fish and Wildlife Service leads efforts for recovering our nation’s threatened and endangered species.
“That’s the kind of critical work done by federal agencies that needs support, and I hope to find a way forward for this legislation to do just that.
“Let’s keep in mind that private landowners also play a central role in species conservation and recovery. We need to ensure that the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act properly recognizes and supports their contributions, as well.
“Our Committee has spent a considerable amount of time over the last few years hearing from numerous experts about wildlife management challenges. One common theme emerged: all of the entities involved in wildlife conservation need increased financial resources to be successful.
“So while we should absolutely address the funding needs of our states and tribes, we cannot afford to ignore the legitimate needs of our federal agencies and other partners.
“Lastly, as our Committee contemplates all of these funding needs, we should also contemplate funding sources. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act proposes nearly $14 billion in investment. And, as drafted, the legislation identifies a funding source that may not be reliable or fully pay for the bill’s spending.
“As our colleagues have oftentimes heard me say, things that are worth doing are worth paying for, and wildlife funding legislation is definitely worth doing.
“Again, we look forward to hearing from our colleagues and witnesses today and working together towards our common goal of ‘Recovering America’s Wildlife.’”