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PRESS RELEASE: Walden Cosponsors Bipartisan Critical Habitat Legislation to Update ESA 3/15/05

Legislation enhances ability of Fish and Wildlife Service to focus on species, habitat, communities

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) became an original cosponsor of the Critical Habitat Enhancement Act introduced today by Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) to strengthen and update the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a law originally passed in 1973 with the intent to protect and preserve threatened or endangered species.  However, since inception, only seven species have been recovered out of 1,300 listed under protection of the ESA. 

It is critical that we modernize and strengthen the 30-year-old ESA so that it can become a more effective tool for recovering threatened and endangered species.  Representative Cardoza’s bill is a step toward that goal," said Walden.  “The provisions outlined in this legislation will help us focus on the survival and recovery of not only species and habitats, but of communities as well.”

This legislation would improve the methods used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the agency primarily responsible for enforcement of the ESA, by extending timelines imposed on the FWS when designating critical habitat.  These lengthened timelines would allow the FWS to properly study the needs of species in question.  Additionally, the Critical Habitat Enhancement Act instructs the FWS to consult with local entities when designating lands for protection as well as requires the consideration of the economic effects of critical habitat designation in their analyses.

Currently, as a result of budget shortfalls, the FWS has been unable to comply with mandated deadlines imposed by the ESA for completing such designations; in response, private litigants have repeatedly sued the FWS because for failure to meet these deadlines.  These lawsuits consume nearly the entire listing program budget, leaving the FWS with little ability to prioritize activities or focus on the recovery of threatened or endangered species.

During the 108th Congress, Walden was the chief sponsor of H.R. 1662, the Endangered Species Data Quality Act of 2004, calling for sound science and peer review of government decisions made as a result of the ESA.  This year, Walden has joined with House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water, in a bicameral approach to finding solutions to strengthen and update the Act so that it works for species and communities.  Walden is working on updating his sound science legislation for this current session of Congress.

“As the hard-working people in Oregon's Klamath Basin will tell you, and the National Academy of Sciences will confirm, this well-intended law simply isn't working as it should. Not only should the health of species throughout the nation be demonstrably improved by the ESA, but the health of communities and local economies should also be carefully addressed as they too are directly impacted by the policy decisions driven by the Act. For the sake of these communities, imperiled species, and the environment that is habitat for these species, I am confident we can make positive strides toward improving the results of the ESA and bringing it into the 21st century,” said Walden.

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 and Commerce as well as the Committee on Resources.






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