House Appropriations Committee

Interior and Environment Subcommittee

FY 2009 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Geological Survey Budget

B-308 Rayburn
Thu, 28 Feb 2008 15:00:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • Dale Hall, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Mark D. Myers, Director, U.S. Geological Survey
Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) I know that you all have talked some about the alarming loss of common birds in our country. Alarming it is. I almost can’t believe it. The numbers that I’ve seen are absolutely atrocious. And one thing that I’d like to explore with you real quick, the Audubon Society has stated that the cause of the dramatic decline of birds is the outright loss of habitat due to poor land use, the clear-cutting of forests, the draining of wetlands and sprawl. Now, in light of such a stinging indictment as that, how does the administration justify a 70 percent cut in land acquisition?

Hall I don’t know.

Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) That’s a good answer.

Chandler That’s one of the best answers I’ve heard in a while, because I think that’s accurate. I appreciate that.

E&E News:

Interior will decide 71 listing proposals this year, FWS says

Allison Winter, Greenwire reporter

The Interior Department will decide this year on proposed endangered species listings for 71 species, a nearly tenfold increase in the number of species listed in the Bush administration’s first seven years.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall told a House panel yesterday that the administration would chip away at a backlog of hundreds of species awaiting protection. The service will decide on listings for 71 species this year and 21 more in 2009.

There are more than 280 species on the candidate list, whose listing is “warranted but precluded” because of lack of funding or other higher priorities, federal scientists say. And there are hundreds of additional plants and animals on whose behalf environmentalists have filed petitions.

Among species the agency plans to consider this year: the sand dunes lizard, three kinds of mussels, two snails, insects and dozens of plants.

The effort marks a turnaround for the administration that has hesitated to list any new plants or animals. President Bush’s Interior Department has listed only eight species – compared with 62 by the Clinton administration and 56 under President George H.W. Bush. All eight listings came in response to lawsuits.

If the agency decides to protect any of the 92 species on its list for determinations, the long timeline for such considerations would likely move final decisions to the next administration.

“It took us a little bit, but we hope this will help us to get on track,” Hall said. “We slipped out of the mode.”

Environmentalists have criticized the administration for its hesitance in listing species and said that while this announcement is welcome, there would still be a backlog of hundreds of species.

“I think it certainly indicates a little movement, but this is long overdue movement,” said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has petitioned and sued for the protection of hundreds of plants and animals under ESA.

“I guess that’s a decent baby step, but the listing program has so many problems associated with it, it is really hard to be overjoyed at this point,” Snape added. In wake of scandals

The service is acting after the Interior inspector general found that the department’s deputy assistant secretary had edited scientific decisions on endangered species. The agency is revising seven rulings that former Deputy Secretary Julie MacDonald was involved in, and Hall said the service has a new policy to keep scientific decisions from reaching political levels.

“The department has allowed me to separate and have the science stop with the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” Hall said yesterday. “It should not be creeping up to non-scientists.”

The service director is a political appointee required by law to have a background in biological sciences. MacDonald had a degree in civil engineering and no formal education in natural sciences.

‘Weeks’ until polar bear decision

The administration’s most high-profile listing decision, the polar bear, should be made “within weeks,” Hall said. He said the service has completed its work and the Interior Department is reviewing the decision.

“It needs to be reviewed and explained to Interior, it can take a while to understand,” Hall told reporters.

If listed, the polar bear would be the first mammal protected under ESA because of global warming. Hall said the agency has been “trying to make the decision the best it can be,” but still expects legal challenges.

“We expect a lawsuit no matter what decision we make on almost anything,” Hall said.

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