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For Immediate Release
April 28, 2004

 Critical Habitat Hearing Reveals Growing

Consensus on Need for Modernization

Assistant Secretary Manson issues new regulations

 to encourage conservation on private lands


Washington, DC - The House Committee on Resources, chaired by Richard W. Pombo (R-CA), heard testimony from more a dozen expert witnesses today on H.R. 2933, the Critical Habitat Reform Act, authored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA).  H.R. 2933 merges the critical habitat component of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the larger effort of recovery planning. 

"This was a very encouraging hearing," Chairman Pombo said.  "There appears to be a growing, bi-partisan consensus that the critical habitat component of the Endangered Species Act must be improved to embrace the goal of species recovery.  I believe Congressman Cardoza's legislation will do just that, and I was pleased to hear support expressed by Members of both sides of the aisle today."

"The cumulative impact of previous critical habitat decisions, without a proper analysis and consideration of the economic consequences, is unacceptable," Rep. Cardoza said.  "We've seen the effects of the Fish & Wildlife Service's questionable decision-making on critical habitat issues, causing unnecessary impacts to agriculture and other landowners, as well as to local governments and the economy.  It cannot continue."

Also, included in the testimony from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Craig Manson, was an announcement of revised agency regulations for endangered species conservation agreements on private lands.  The revised regulations provide clearer definitions and more certainty for property owners to incentivize private conservation.

"Issuing these revised regulations will encourage the people who matter most - America's ranchers, farmers, and private land owners - to engage in voluntary measures to conserve species on their lands," said Chairman Pombo.  "This spirit of cooperation is essential to recovering endangered species across the country, as more than ninety percent of our species live on private lands."

Consensus on the need for critical habitat improvement has grown in recent years and during previous administrations.  For example, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark have long advocated reforms, stating that critical habitat designations offer little to the goal of species recovery.  The current Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Craig Manson agrees.  So too does Michael Bean of Environmental Defense.

"Merging critical habitat designations with the recovery planning component of the Endangered Species Act will help focus the law on species recovery, making recovery our number-one priority," said Chairman Pombo.  "This was the intent of the law, but after thirty years it has only recovered twelve of the roughly 1300 species listed.  These results for recovery must improve, and I am confident that Rep. Cardoza's legislation will help us achieve that goal."


For more information, visit http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/ for the report:
The ESA at 30: A Mandate for Modernization











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