Mr. SIMPSON. I rise in opposition to the amendment by my good friend from Washington (Mr. Dicks).
I respect where my friend is trying to go; but not only does this amendment not get us there, it's downright dangerous. Let me explain why.
Since the Clinton administration and response to lawsuits and court orders that were crippling the agency's budget, there has been a statutory cap on how much the agency is permitted to spend on ESA listings. There's been a statutory cap in place since the Clinton administration. A cap on critical habitat spending was added in 2002.
The Obama administration requested new caps for petitions and foreign species listed in 2012.
In short, support for ESA funding caps has had bipartisan support in Congress and in the White House and was in place when the gentleman from Washington wrote the Interior bill and when the gentleman from Virginia wrote the Interior bill. Those spending caps were in place.
This amendment proposes to do away with funding caps altogether and gives the green light to those who have made a living suing the Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, the litigants will act, the courts will all act, and the Fish and Wildlife Service's entire operating budget will be at risk of being raided in order to fund court-ordered mandates to list species and designate critical habitat.
This service will have no choice but to raid other funds from its resource management account, which is already decreased by $146 million, or 12 percent, in this budget. Having said that, the heart of the issue isn't about funding. It's about the fact that the Endangered Species Act is broken and is badly in need of review, revision, and reauthorization by the Natural Resources Committee. As I have said before, there's been about 2,000 species listed and 21 recovered.
Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act has become not so much about saving species as it has been about controlling land and water. I'll give you an example. We all talk about the fuzzy and warm animals that we all like and all want to save. Nobody talks about the slickspot peppergrass, endangered. Nobody really cares about the slickspot peppergrass, except that it's listed. And you know what it does? It prevents cattle grazing on public lands and is used to prevent cattle grazing on public
lands and move cattle producers off of public lands. That's the only reason that the slickspot peppergrass is really listed. That's unfortunate.
When you start using what was an act that was bipartisan and almost had unanimous agreement in the House and Senate, was a good Act--the intent of the Endangered Species Act is right, and we need to do it. We need to protect species that are endangered. Unfortunately, that's not what it's being used for today, and you can't get the stakeholders to the table to do a reauthorization bill because there are groups that like it the way it is. They want to control land and water by using the Endangered
Species Act. How do we get the message out to them that we need to do a reauthorization? The only way I can think of is to say, You know what? This has been unauthorized for 20 years.
Now, you talk about policy riders in this bill that you don't like. This is a policy rider that you're attempting to add. It's an unauthorized program. Just because we have continued to fund it for 20 years, that's not the answer; that's the problem. And we need stakeholders to come to the table, sit down with the Natural Resources Committee and write a reauthorization. That's what this is all about. It is a shot across the bow.
I believe there are 56 or 58 programs in this bill that the authorization has expired. Somehow we need to send a message that we have a process around here. It's authorization, then appropriation. Not authorization, expired appropriation, and appropriation and appropriation and appropriation. It's the only way those things keep going on. We are trying to send a message.
You will find that I am supportive of reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act, and I am supportive of the Endangered Species Act as it was originally intended. But I would urge my colleagues to vote against this dangerous amendment which would undermine the Fish and Wildlife Service's budget because it would lift the caps that have been in place since the Clinton administration, and Fish and Wildlife Service would have no other alternative but to raid their accounts in order to fund court
orders, suits, and other things that would come along.
I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MORAN. I was going to wait until other speakers spoke, but I felt it appropriate to engage in a discussion here with the chairman and to remind him that this bill includes funding for a multitude of expired authorizations.
The Bureau of Land Management isn't authorized. But you are funding the Bureau of Land Management because you like the Bureau of Land Management. The grazing program isn't authorized. Oil and gas isn't authorized.
Mr. MORAN. Well, that's it.
Reclaiming my time, the shot across the bow goes right into the heart of the Endangered Species Act. So you are picking winners and losers. You could have picked any number of programs, but you like those. In fact, some of them you've increased--funding for grazing subsidies, funding for oil and gas subsidies. But the Endangered Species Act, the poor species who are in danger of extinction who can't speak up for themselves, they get targeted. They're the ones you are going to make an example
You know, not allowing listings of the designation of even the critical habitat that will protect endangered species doesn't change the fact that so many plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. There are 260 species that are in danger of extinction, but we're not going to protect them.
The lack of critical habitat designations not only hurts those species at risk, but it leaves in limbo landowners and businesses that need decisions made in order to make plans. We hear so much about uncertainty and how bad uncertainty is. This creates uncertainty.
The twist of irony: The bill allows funding to be used to delist species or reclassify them from endangered to threatened, to delist them or down-list them, but no funds can be used for listings or to reclassify them from threatened to endangered. Even if they become endangered, we can't classify them as endangered. We can only down-list them. It's a one-way street, a one-way street to less protection.
I too would like to see the Endangered Species Act authorized. Maybe we'll hear from the chairman of the authorizing committee why it's not being reauthorized. But this is not the way to deauthorize it. The fact is that this is legislating on an appropriations bill, basically. I thought we were not supposed to be doing that. But we make these poor endangered species that are at risk of extinction bear the cost of Congress' failure to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act.
Of course I support the Dicks amendment. Not only do we have 260 species at risk of extinction, but we don't even know the entire scope of the species whose very existence is at risk, and we don't know either the role they play in the ecology of our planet. There are so many species that we're only now learning--for example, there are many that catch insects or mosquitoes or whatever--that maintain the population of other species.
I do believe that every species has some role to play in the sustainability and the ecology of this planet. We don't know necessarily what that role is, but I do think we have some idea that they're there for a purpose. And while they're there for a purpose, it seems to me we have a purpose, a responsibility for enabling that species to be sustained on this fragile planet. And to say that we can't outperform our responsibility, we can't act responsibly toward these species, is irresponsible.
It really is an embarrassment to this Congress.
So I very strongly support the Dicks amendment. I would hope that we would give species a break. Get this language out of this bill.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, let me make one point: This debate is not about the Endangered Species Act; it is not about the Endangered Species Act.
I have to rise in opposition to the amendment offered by my good friend from Washington State. I think that Chairman Simpson has brought to the House floor a bill that prioritizes funding to ensure that the core responsibilities and environmental protections are met in a broader sense.
When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, this bill focuses on funding the actual recovery of species. It does this by, one, continuing funds for recovery activities and doing that despite the fact that this bill, the ESA, has not been reauthorized for 23 years--not 20 years; 23 years--and, two, by limiting funds for lawsuit-driven new listings and habitat designations.
This bill sends a clear message, as the gentleman from Idaho said, that the Endangered Species Act needs to be updated and improved. It needs to be reauthorized. As I mentioned, it's been 23 years since this bill was reauthorized by Congress. A person can be born and graduate from college in the amount of time that has passed since Congress last acted to make serious responsible improvements to this law.
Now, the gentleman from Washington acknowledged me on the floor earlier, and I will tell him, as the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction on the Endangered Species Act, I can inform the House that this committee will be conducting robust oversight of the need to update this law in the coming months. The current law is failing to truly recover species while it frequently hamstrings jobs and economic prosperity, like the gentleman from Idaho mentioned. And we will
also examine legislative priorities.
In my view--and this is important about this debate--in my view, the real obstacle to improving ESA is the fact that a number of groups are heavily invested in litigation mindset, a litigation mindset that prefers lawsuits against the government over improving the act and improving the recovery of species. These groups have filed lawsuits by the one hundreds against Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries.
This bill, under Chairman Simpson's leadership, effectively halts these lawsuits. By limiting any spending on new listings or habit designations, this bill will allow the biologists to get back to work recovering species, rather than responding to court cases. Both funding and personnel will be able to focus on the real work of bringing species back from the brink.
By striking this provision, the Dicks amendment would reopen the litigation process. The same activist groups, Mr. Chairman, that filed these lawsuits endorse this amendment. As we speak, they are waging an expensive paid advertising campaign on behalf of this amendment. Because they profit from these lawsuits, to me, it appears they are more concerned about the ability to go to court, get a settlement and get paid than they are about recovering species.
So I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment. This bill strikes the right balance by directing funding to actual recovery of species. And it strikes the right balance by bringing a halt to litigation over new listings and habitat designations.
This bill will create an opportunity where Congress can do its job to update and modernize the ESA. It's time that we take a thoughtful analysis of the inadequacies of this current law, inadequacies that allow the ESA to be abused through lawsuits, rather than serving as a true conduit for species recovery.
Let me go on to say that, as the chairman, I think, said very well in his remarks, there is no incentive for the stakeholders to come and try to work out the differences or update this law if Congress keeps kicking the can ahead. That's what the issue is all about.
I can't imagine, for example, that people really believe that this bill should be in place, yet, when there is a major construction project here in the Washington, DC, area, like the Woodrow Wilson bridge, they waive the act. Does that make sense? Of course it doesn't make sense.
And we don't get an opportunity, those of us that are impacted by this act, get a chance to waive it. So it just seems to me that there has to be an update of this. The act has not been updated for 23 years. It's time to do it. And as the chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction on that, I'm glad to work with the chairman of the Appropriations Committee on this. In fact, I'll work with anybody on this because I too believe that the species are very important, as the gentleman from Virginia
said. But let's do it in a way that protects species and does not harm those people that make a living from the land and/or the water.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. TONKO. Mr. Chair, I rise today to offer an amendment to H.R. 2584, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012. The amendment is bipartisan and is supported by the Congressional National Heritage Caucus and the 49 National Heritage Areas across our country.
The amendment is straightforward and modest. The amendment restores the National Heritage Area program within the National Park Service to the fiscal year 2010 funding levels. This amount is constant with the amount approved by Congress for the past several years. To pay for this increase, the amendment shifts $8,408,000 away from the Office of the National Parks Service account.
From Alaska to Florida, the National Heritage Areas are the most effective public-private partnerships for resource conservation and heritage tourism supported by the Federal Government. While each of the 49 National Heritage Areas currently in existence are authorized to receive $1 million in annual support through the Department of Interior, the National Heritage Area program has only been funded between $15 million and $18 million over the past 5 years by Congress, despite their success in
revitalizing communities and conserving naturally significant resources with only modest Federal support.
These public-private partnerships are perhaps the most cost-effective and efficient programs within the Department of Interior. Matching every dollar of Federal support with $5.50 of other public and private funding, National Heritage Areas are clearly a high-yield investment of Federal resources.
To be clear, that investment results in over $100 million of economic activity. During a time when our economy is so fragile, we must support these programs that have a proven record of economic benefit. National Heritage Areas have such a proven record of fostering job creation and advancing economic, cultural, historic, environmental, and community development. In addition to creating jobs, National Heritage Areas generate valuable revenue for local governments and sustain communities through
revitalization and heritage tourism.
More specifically, in my district, a recent study released last year by my local heritage area, the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor, found that visitors to heritage sites in the eastern part of the corridor--found that nearly 1 million people visit heritage sites each year, generating some $38 million sales in local businesses, supporting 507 local jobs.
We must preserve sites that are historically significant. Doing so will increase community spirit as well as generate much-needed tourism dollars. A recent United States Cultural and Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and United States Department of Commerce study revealed that cultural heritage travelers contribute more than $192 billion annually to our United States economy. I would point out also that this tool, this opportunity for heritage areas enables given regions to have a stronger sense
of marketing tools. They are able to promote a stronger sense of place and a much more dynamic bit of destination. That is a tool in the economic recovery toolkit that is tremendously valuable and important to these given host regions.
I want to thank Representative Dent of Pennsylvania for offering this amendment with me today. He is the cochair of the National Heritage Area Caucus in the House, and he and his staff have been a pleasure to work with on this amendment. I also need to thank the ranking member on the committee, Mr. Dicks, and our ranker of the subcommittee, Representative Moran. They have been invaluable in their support in my effort for this amendment.
Understanding today's difficult budgetary climate, I want to remind everyone that this amount is equal to the total appropriation for the program in the previous fiscal year and reflects the minimum level of support National Heritage Areas need to remain successful. I hope my colleagues will consider joining Mr. Dent and myself in supporting this modest funding level for a vitally important program.
Mr. Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.