Mr. SKEEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, we thought so much of the gentleman's amendment that we made it permanent law 2 years ago. I am happy to accommodate the gentleman and put this item in the fiscal year 2000 bill as well.
Mr. SKEEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I hope the House will vote down this amendment. It is true, there are funds in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for predator control in western States. There are also funds for predator control in northern, southern, and eastern States.
There is money for research on Lyme disease and diseases spread by rats. There is money to control the spread of rabies in wild animals in the Midwest and eastern States. There is money to protect the bird population in Hawaii from devastation by the brown tree snake. There is money to protect airline passengers by controlling flocks of birds at airports. There is money to control damage to grain crops by blackbirds and to control migratory birds that feed on domestically produced fish, so those
farmers can make a decent living. There is money to promote nonlethal methods of animal control. There is money for animal welfare.
Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that if we are going to go after farmers and ranchers in one area of the country and deny them help, maybe we should look at all of the programs in this country and subsidies, to shift the entire burden to the States and the private sector.
Mr. Chairman, I ask my colleagues to vote no on this amendment.
Mr. BASS. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the amendment. This is the same amendment that we passed on a Friday and then defeated on a Monday with a few phone calls having been made over the weekend. I hope Congress would have the opportunity to vote again and be on record and pass this amendment this time.
It has been said that this is a very important program. From my perspective, I think it is a waste of money. The program does not work. It essentially is money from the taxpayers' pockets to private landholders to control predators on their own property. But what is sad about it is that the program seeks to spend $20 million to solve a problem that only costs private landholders $7.2 million per year.
Nothing in this amendment, nothing in this amendment will affect in any way the programs for technical assistance or for bird control at airports. I serve on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and on the Subcommittee on Aviation. I am an instrument-rated pilot. I have flown all over the country. I can assure the Members I would do nothing that would affect the safety of our Nation's airport.
This would carve out cleanly a subsidy to private individuals to control predators in a situation whose effectiveness is clearly under considerable question.
It is true that some of the resources for this program do go to other parts of the country, but 95 percent of the funds for this program go to these western States and to these large ranchers to use for predator control.
I would suggest that we can save money by passage of this amendment. We can eliminate a practice that by even the best of interpretations is neither effective nor seemly, and I think it is an entirely inappropriate use of Federal funds.
Although I have enormous respect for all of the Members of the Committee on Appropriations who have supported this amendment, I think it is time that we eliminated this unnecessary funding from the Federal government.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment. I want to talk about how my district is affected by what is going on out there. I want to share with the body some letters that I have received from people not only in the district but from the State of Oregon with regard to this.
The head of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the director, James Greer, has written saying, ``We rely heavily on Wildlife Services as a partner in addressing the effects of wildlife and predatory animals on livestock and crops. Specifically, they provide animal damage control assistance to help resolve depredations caused by black bear, cougars, and other predatory animals. In addition, they deal with human safety threats from an increasing cougar and bear population.''
These threats are from a cougar population that is very real. ``According to a recent survey conducted by the Oregon Agricultural Statistics Service, more than $158 million of annual damage to Oregon agriculture products occurs from wildlife,'' this from Phil Ward, the director of the Department of Agriculture in Oregon.
Mr. Chairman, my district is one of the most rural districts in America. We have lots of family farms, and 55.5 percent of it is under Federal control. The refuges and all out there, we have enormous populations growing of predators. The Wallowa County School District tells me they have such a problem with cougars that they will not let the young kids off the bus until their parents are there to meet them. These are issues.
Is this amendment going to deal with all of that? Probably not. I am not up here to make extraordinary claims. But the point is in these small rural counties, in these small counties that have 1,000, 2,000, 7,000 people, this program is an integral piece in an overall package to deal with predators.
I want to show the Members a picture that does not look too damaging here, but this is a coyote and this is a lamb. The next picture in this series is probably too graphic for C-Span to show. So when Members hear about control, predator control, and that somehow that is an awful thing, the flip side of that is awful, as well. The [Page: H3791]
flip side is the maiming that is done of sheep and cattle and all; animals raised for production, admittedly, but for problems
that are caused by these predators.
Mr. Chairman, I think this amendment goes too far. I think it hurts a program that is very important to the rural parts of America and that helps not just a handful of wealthy ranchers, as some might say, but probably close to 10,000 livestock producers each year are helped by this program.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding. Just on the photo, that was provided by the Federal government. It was actually taken at a test facility where the coyotes were starved and then put into an enclosure with sheep. It is a graphic photo, but it is not exactly representative.
Mr. DeFAZIO. If the gentleman would further yield, and I appreciate the gentleman yielding, although we are on opposite sides of this issue, also on the total wildlife damage in agriculture in Oregon, it was $158 million. The gentleman is exactly correct. However, the damage to livestock from predators was about $1 million, and more was spent by the State and the Feds to control that than if we had actually reimbursed people. The major damage was damage to crops, $148.6 million.
That damage, interestingly enough, took place from things on which coyotes predate, such as field mice, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, et cetera, et cetera. All of their prey is causing a big problem. Now we have to start another new program to go out and control the things that the predators used to prey on because they are eating the grain and other crops.
We need to get a better vision. I think the gentleman and I could construct something that would work better. I thank the gentleman for his time.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I appreciate the gentleman's comments. However, I would say that indeed, I thought I heard earlier a comment about how the coyote population was growing rapidly around. So it is hard to argue both cases at the same time.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, the point here is that we have many problems in my district in terms of predators devouring livestock. This program is helpful to that as part of the bigger package that combines State and local funds to deal with it.
Sometimes it is one game person that is out there dealing with this, one predator control officer. But because they are from such small entities, the funding is all combined.
Mr. Chairman, I urge opposition to this.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the DeFazio amendment, which basically guts the core funding for USDA's Wildlife Services program. This is an important program that serves the public good in a number of ways, and it should be funded at the level approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Reducing funds for USDA's Wildlife Services will not just affect lethal predator control in the West, it will also cripple other needed activities throughout the Nation. Often the same USDA staff who help ranchers manage problems of predators may also help local airports protect human life by removing flocks of birds near runways.
I emphasize that one of the reasons why the DeFazio amendment does not work as he had intended is that we use the same people, and when we eliminate a person, that person who might be not only helping ranchers with their predator problems might also be the same person that is dealing with flocks of birds around airports. That gets overlooked in some of the concern which has been expressed here on the floor.
Make no mistake about it, this reduction in funds is not a targeted cut. Let me also add that Wildlife Services is not a Federal giveaway program. The majority of funding for the work of USDA's Wildlife Services comes from sources outside the Federal government, like State, local, and private organizations. Federal funds help to secure the basic program staff, who then are able to draw in significant funding directly from those who benefit from their work. However, without these USDA staff, it
is unclear whether these outside funds will continue to be made available.
Finally, I am amazed by the argument that this program is not needed because wildlife-generated losses to property and human life are considered low by some folks. That is like arguing that childhood immunization programs are a waste of money since so few children now die from these diseases.
That is the whole point. We spend public money on preventative programs so we will not have to face the alternative. We spend money on Wildlife Services in order to avoid rabies epidemics, downed aircraft, and dead or maimed livestock. I simply do not agree that just because the program seems to be working efficiently, it should now be eliminated.
Please support the responsible and necessary management of wildlife by opposing the DeFazio amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I would like to offer a compromise here. The gentleman raised a number of issues in which I am vitally concerned: Airports, bird strikes, those things on which a pitiful amount of money was spent last year, inadequate.
So if the gentleman would accept the first part of the amendment, which is a limitation only for lethal predator control for livestock, and not delete the amount of money and then support that, I would be happy to actually leave the funds in if we direct the service to not waste the money on the lethal predator control.
Would the gentleman accept that?
Mr. STENHOLM. I most certainly would not, because I absolutely disagree with the intent of gentleman's amendment. Even though that sounds very reasonable, it completely overlooks one of the fundamental areas I disagree with, that we do not need to be assisting our ranchers with predator control.
The gentleman ought to come to the Seventeenth District of Texas and see what happens to livestock and what would happen under gentleman's proposal.
I just respectfully differ with the gentleman regarding what the gentleman intends and would like to do.
Mr. DeFAZIO. If the gentleman would further yield, Mr. Chairman, I was the county commissioner. We had tough times. We had to cut our match, which lost our Federal predator control agents.
All of my sheep ranchers were in and said, my God, you will not believe what is going to happen, Commissioner, if we do that. Do Members know what happened? Nothing. In fact, the predation went down over a 5-year period.
That is really interesting, that when we stop spending the money, and we heard that they did kill some predators still, but they did it in a very discriminate form on their farms without a subsidy. I have a real life example in my district, which gets these funds, where we do better without them. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. STENHOLM. That is where we have reasonable differences. I have real life experience on the other side.
But also I would point out one other major, important aspect of it. It is rabies control. This is something that is extremely important to the general population in large segments of Texas. Perhaps in this one district in Oregon it is different.
I would assure the Members, in most places of the country, the argument on the side of the Committee on Appropriations and what the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. SKEEN) and the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR) are [Page: H3792]
suggesting is what the full House ought to do today. We ought to defeat this amendment.
Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I do not plan on taking all of the 5 minutes, but I rise in strong opposition. I do not have a dog in this hunt. I do not represent farmers; I do not represent ranchers. I have got mostly a city area in my district.
But I want to tell my colleagues that San Diego is a series of canyons and areas where a lot of people hike, and up in the hills also. This last year we had two women joggers who were killed by mountain lions. We had requested that the Federal Government come in and help manage. Because they have not been able to hunt lions in a long time, these lions are coming into the parks, into where people picnic in private and public areas. A little child was mauled by a mountain lion, nearly died, lost
an arm. Another woman was hiking, and the lion not only killed her, it ate most of her before they found her.
California also has this little rodent called, a prairie-dog-type critter, a ground squirrel. We have heard about rabies, but in California this little rodent and the fleas they carry have bubonic plague. Now think of the terror that that word brings in our past history. We need those kinds of eradications, not only on public lands, but on private as well. We cannot just take care of the public lands and then go over and let that menace ride.
So I rise in strong opposition to this. I have flown a jet out at Miramar. To tell my colleagues what an animal, a bird, will do to an airplane, this hawk went clear through my wing and broke the main spar of an F-4 Phantom that I was flying. The airplane was hard down. Luckily, I was able to land the airplane, but it totally destroyed the airplane, one hawk in the thing.
When we talk about public health, we talk about rabies, we talk about plague, we talk about lethal predators; and for this reason, I rise in strong opposition to the amendment of the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DEFAZIO).
Mrs. CUBIN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the amendment offered by the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DEFAZIO).
I want to talk about just a couple different areas. I represent the entire State of Wyoming. Here is a little history lesson that I would like to give.
A lot of people think that the public lands in the West are all national parks and national forests. Well, they are not. BLM land, or Bureau of Land Management land, makes up about half of the State of Wyoming, and it is owned by the Federal Government. The reason that is public land is because it is land that no one claimed when the Homestead Act expired.
Now, why did not anybody claim that land? They did not claim it because, for the most part, it does not have water on it. It is not very productive. There is alkali on it and sagebrush. It is not productive land, so it was not claimed. No one wanted it. So it was put in trust for the Bureau of Land Management. That is now what is called the public lands in the West.
Now if my colleagues stop and think about this for a minute, if my colleagues think about the ranchers and the public land that they have or the private land that they have, the private land is private because they homesteaded it because it has water on it. Then because there is water on it, there is grass, and there is feed for the cattle.
But do my colleagues know what else? There is grass and feed and water for the wildlife as well. I am talking about deer and antelope, elk, moose, bear, and all of those kinds of species that we regard very highly that we want to take care of.
Well, the USDA predator control, or Wildlife Services Program is there to protect that wildlife as well. So I think that the gentleman from Oregon's opposition to this comes from the fact that private landowners are helped by this service on their private land. But when my colleagues consider that 80 percent of the wildlife out there, the deer, antelope, elk, and so on is on private land.
And yet the public is the owner of that wildlife. I think it is our responsibility, since we are the owners of that wildlife, to help take responsibility in caring for them.
Another point I want to make, in Gillette, Wyoming, and Campbell County, we have a serious problem with rabies. Rabid skunks have gone into the City of Gillette, Wyoming, and this program is helping us with that problem.
A cougar in Casper, Wyoming, was spotted just last week very near a playground. People in a city like Casper do not necessarily have the expertise to be able to deal with this without the help of this program. So it is very shortsighted to cut this program. It is a matter of public health, and it should also be a matter of public conscience.