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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Endangered Species Act Reform

July 23, 2014

Congressman McClintock delivered the following remarks on the House floor in support of H.R. 4315, Endangered Species Act Reform:

Endangered Species Act Reform
(HR 4315)
July 29, 2014
Mr. Chairman,
The Endangered Species Act serves a great cause: to prevent the extinction of any species because of human activity.  But as Eric Hoffer warned, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”
Unfortunately, in the last four years, the ESA has become the basis for an explosion of lawsuits seeking to force hundreds of new species listings.  Many of these suits are funded at taxpayers’ expense, which in turn require federal, state and local agencies to spend even more taxpayer money to respond.  
In northern California last month, this kind of litigation resulted in designating two million acres as critical habitat for three amphibians – despite overwhelming evidence that human activity is not to blame (the cause of the decline is non-native predators and a virus affecting all amphibian species).  
The Natural Resources Committee has heard hours of testimony of how these decisions are based on highly questionable data from advocacy groups that include major mathematical errors, rank speculation, and even selectively suppressed data in order to arrive at pre-determined conclusions.  
This measure begins to address the concerns.  It requires that supporting data be readily available to the general public, and it requires that the government use the best available science and data from ALL sources.  It addresses the litigation crisis by requiring that legal costs be tracked and publicly reported, and it conforms those costs to the Equal Access to Justice Act that prevents extravagant claims for legal fees.
Louis Brandeis said that “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.”  This bill places the data for implementing the ESA back in the sunlight where it can be fully scrutinized, and it places a modicum of restraint on the legal fees sought by litigants.