Wednesday, July 21, 2004

For Immediate Release

Walden Bipartisan ESA Modernization Bill Approved by House Resources Committee

H.R. 1662, Endangered Species Data Quality Act of 2004, calls for

common-sense updates to 30-year-old ESA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Committee on Resources today approved H.R. 1662, the Endangered Species Data Quality Act of 2004*, sponsored by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) by a bipartisan vote of 26 to 15. The bill, which currently enjoys bipartisan support from 66 co-sponsors, calls for modernization of the 30-year-old ESA by implementing peer-review of government science used in the decision-making process. Walden, chairman of the panel’s Forests & Forest Health subcommittee, was encouraged by the committee’s action.

"As the committee learned last weekend in Klamath Falls at our congressional field hearing, by modernizing the 30-year-old ESA to include field testing and expert peer review of government science, we can avert decisions based on inconclusive science that can hurt species and devastate small communities and the economies they rely on. It is the responsibility of the Congress to deliver this tool to America’s wildlife and citizens," Said Walden.

"Peer review is a practice required by the Food & Drug Administration, medical and scientific journals, the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Education," Walden continued. "Why wouldn’t we use this proven scientific principle when it comes to the survival of a species or the survival of community?"

The legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior to take into account peer review and field study on commercial or scientific evidence from the National Academy of Sciences, or appointed individuals, before making a determination that a species is endangered. The Secretary would still have authorization to make emergency declarations if a critical situation arises.

Democratic Representatives Joe Baca (D-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Brad Carson (D-OK) and Cal Dooley (D-CA) joined in support of Walden’s bill.

"I know that the application of the ESA in my area has educated me to the point that I see how we don’t use sound science on a regular basis," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA). He then cited an example where the actual field assessment of the future site for a university came up with very different results than the data presented to them when they first looked at the site. "I am in whole-hearted support [of H.R. 1662]," he continued.

"The Walden legislation would strengthen the scientific foundation of species recovery efforts by integrating a peer-review tool into ESA decision-making processes," said Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). "As Greg has so ably pointed out, scores of other federal laws require this standard scientific safeguard, but it has never been integrated into Washington's solution for recovering endangered species.  I applaud his efforts.  The communities throughout the United States who have suffered at the hand of poor decision-making under the ESA should applaud him too."

Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes 20 counties in southern, central and eastern Oregon. He is a Deputy Whip in the House leadership structure, and a member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce as well as the Committee on Resources.

*Today’s committee vote officially renamed this legislation. It was formerly titled the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2003.