Opening Statement: Ranking Member McClintock - Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee (Hearing on Grizzly Bear Legislation)
Opening Statement by Congressman Tom McClintock
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife
House Committee on Natural Resources
May 15, 2019
The Subcommittee meets today to consider H.R. 2532 by Congressman Grijalva. The bill would over-ride the provisions of the Endangered Species Act and apply permanent regulatory restrictions to the management of grizzly bear populations -- perpetuating federal control of wildlife management decisions traditionally and effectively managed by state authorities -- even after a listed species has recovered its population to sustainable levels.
Although the ESA has been spectacularly unsuccessful at recovering 98 percent of the species under its provisions, there have been a few happy exceptions, one of which is the grizzly bear population. As we will hear from the Director of the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has recovered from 136 bears in the early 1970’s to more than 700 today. That is above the estimated carrying capacity of the conservation area, and it meets or exceeds all of the ESA criteria for de-listing. This has been in part due to extraordinary efforts by Wyoming State officials to augment and facilitate federal efforts, enlisting the cooperation of landowners, local communities and the general public. A major motivation for the state to do so has been the promise that traditional state prerogatives over managing the ecosystem will be restored once the endangered species population has recovered.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the range of the Yellowstone grizzly has quadrupled since being listed under the ESA, currently occupying more than 25,000 square miles of habitat. The expanding population now risks overwhelming the resources of the habitat, forcing the growing population into a wider range that brings them increasingly into contact with human populations, sometimes with deadly consequences both for humans and for the bears themselves.
Under the provisions of the ESA, the grizzly bear no longer meets the definition of threatened and should be delisted. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have proposed doing so,but have been repeatedly thwarted by political agitation and litigation.
Ironically, state wildlife managers have proved to be able stewards for the preservation and perpetuation of other bear and wildlife populations within their jurisdictions which have produced healthy populations at levels the habitat can support.
We are often assured that the Endangered Species Act is entirely science-based. The science tells us that the population has fully recovered with numbers well above those needed to assure genetic diversity and that the population is now expanding at a steady rate. It is also warning us that the population is exceeding the ability of the land to support it.
But this bill ignores the science because of a decidedly unscientific ideological aversion to hunting. Yet, if a sustainable, healthy species population is desired, tightly regulated hunting is highly preferable to nature’s way of population control: disease, starvation and encroachment into other habitats.
Worse, as we will hear in testimony, this bill imposes provisions that make species relocation all but impossible, foreclosing the opportunity of transferring grizzly bears from overpopulated habitats to underpopulated ones.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s warns that “the credibility of the Endangered Species Act is dependent upon the successful transfer of wildlife management authority to state fish and wildlife agencies upon recovery.” This legislation directly undermines state wildlife managers and sound science and breaks the promise that species management will be restored to state wildlife managers, local communities and private landowners once its criteria for recovery are fulfilled – a promise that is essential to assure cooperation while a species is listed as endangered.
Most of all, this bill places humans in increasing danger of injury and death as the grizzly bear population is pushed into foraging farms, ranges, parks, campgrounds and ultimately rural towns by the excesses of this legislation.
One would hope that the supporters of this bill would gladly seize this very rare success of species recovery under the ESA and declare victory. Instead, they ignore the scientific thresh-hold set by the ESA and add permanent restrictions to grizzly bear management regardless of the size of the population and its effect on both the species and its habitat. This bill recognizes no scientifically-supported population limits for the habitats affected, which in effect condemns the grizzly bear and its habitat to morbid overpopulation. This bill substitutes emotional, ideological and sentimental biases that are the polar opposite of scientific resource management.
It does, however, illustrate two of Ronald Reagan’s favorite principles: that there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program, and that the oldest lie in civilization is, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
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