5:22 PM EDT

Ryan Zinke, R-MT

Mr. ZINKE. Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:


Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to finalize, implement, or enforce subparts F and J of part 1206 of the proposed rule by the Department of the Interior entitled ``Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal & Indian Coal Valuation Reform'' and dated January 6, 2015 (80 Fed. Reg. 608).

The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 333, the gentleman from Montana and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Montana.

5:23 PM EDT

Niki Tsongas, D-MA 3rd

Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Chairman, my amendment, which I offer with Mr. Beyer of Virginia, would strike three policy riders related to the Endangered Species Act from the underlying bill, those concerning the greater sage-grouse, the northern long-eared bat, and the gray wolf. I want to focus my remarks on the greater sage-grouse.

The language in this bill that seeks to block an Endangered Species Act listing of the bird is unnecessary and is completely inappropriate, putting both the species and the historic quintessentially American sagebrush steppe landscape at risk.

In 1901, Mark Twain described the sagebrush steppe as a ``forest in exquisite miniature.'' At one point, as many as 16 million greater sage-grouse called the sagebrush sea home. Settlers traveling west said that flocks of sage-grouse ``blackened the sky.'' Today the population has been reduced to as few as 200,000 birds.

Right now there are unprecedented and proactive partnerships throughout the West which are working to conserve sagebrush habitat, to encourage predictability for economic development, and to prevent the listing of the greater sage-grouse as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Federal agencies, States, sportsmen, ranchers, farmers, and conservationists have all come together in this effort. In fact, the 10 land management plans released by the Interior Department last month are based on plans developed by the States, not one size fits all, but individual plans to suit each State's individual needs. This is all the result of a concerted collaboration.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the States themselves agree that, as long as these partnerships continue, it is likely that the greater sage-grouse will not be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Rather than helping communities, the rider in this bill creates uncertainty and only undermines the immense coordinated progress already underway. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

5:25 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I will talk about the three different provisions to this amendment. Let me first talk about the sage-grouse.

The sage-grouse provision in this bill is meant to give the Fish and Wildlife Service time to make a determination of whether there ought to be a listing or not. The court has ordered them to make a determination by, I think, September 30. We are trying to give them the time necessary.

This is going to affect 11 Western States. It is not going to affect Massachusetts, by the way, but it is going to affect 11 Western States substantially.

They have recently put out their resource management plans to the States. There is a period in which the States have a chance to interact with the Federal agency and raise their complaints and so forth about what the problems are with their resource management plans.

We are trying to give the Fish and Wildlife Service and the States--the 11 Western States, by the way, not Massachusetts--the time to come up with a plan so that we don't list this bird.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the States--everybody, essentially--agree we don't want sage-grouse listed. The States have made incredible progress and have made incredible sacrifices.

The State of Wyoming has taken, I want to say, millions of acres which have potential resources off the table in order to protect the sage-grouse. So we have taken extraordinary efforts to make sure that we don't list this bird.

As far as the wolves are concerned, the fact is that the Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the wolves. It was not us. We didn't want to go against science. We are not going against science. We aren't trying to make any species become extinct.

It was the Fish and Wildlife Service in their use of science that delisted the wolves. But guess what. Some people weren't happy with that; so, they took them to court. And now we are in a court case. The same thing happened in Idaho and in Montana.

This language doesn't take a species off the endangered species list. Some people think we are trying to delist species, and we are not. We are going back to the decision made by the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the wolves in the Great Lakes and in the State of Wyoming.

I think, if you want to talk about the cost and if you want to complain about what is going on here, you really ought to complain to the plaintiffs who are causing all of this hassle with wolves when the States have done exactly what they were supposed to do.

The wolf populations in the Great Lakes particularly have exploded. In Idaho and Montana, they have exploded. In Wyoming, they have exploded. That is why the Fish and Wildlife Service delisted them.

This amendment is contrary to every bit of science that there is that deals with endangered species. So I would urge my colleagues to reject this amendment even though it doesn't affect Massachusetts.

I reserve the balance of my time.

5:28 PM EDT

Don Beyer Jr., D-VA 8th

Mr. BEYER. I thank the gentlewoman.

Mr. Chairman, despite what you may hear from some Members of Congress, gray wolves have not recovered. In a test by the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove them from the Endangered Species Act, protections for wolves have failed time and again.

Why? It is because scientific experts have shown and the courts have confirmed that the best available science does not justify the removal of all ESA protections for gray wolves at this time.

In fact, the only instance in which wolves have been delisted has been through the unprecedented and unfortunate congressional action in 2011 to remove protections from wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

These wolves are now endlessly persecuted by hunters and ranchers despite the positive effects they have on the ecosystem and the minimal toll they take on livestock.

[Time: 17:30]

Wolf-related tourism around Yellowstone generates more than $35 million annually for local economies, and recovery in the Pacific Northwest is only beginning. [Page: H4808]

This amendment would prevent Congress from directing the Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue the delisting of wolves in the western Great Lakes and Wyoming. Now is not the time for Congress to declare open season on one of America's most iconic wild animals. Science, not politics, should guide these delisting decisions.

By the way, wolves are not in Massachusetts, they are not in Virginia, and they never will be as long as we do not continue our efforts to protect wolves and allow them to occupy the old territories they did a few hundred years ago.

This amendment would also allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to move forward with steps to protect the northern long-eared bat. Over the past decade, populations of the bat have declined 98 percent, mostly because of the deadly effects of white-nose syndrome. As a result, Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the bat as a threatened species. While scientists and wildlife managers work to fight the spread of white-nose syndrome, it is important to ensure that the remaining bat populations

are safe from other threats.

The interim rule currently in effect governing taking of the bat is incredibly flexible and was developed in close coordination with industry stakeholders, particularly the timber industry, to ensure that economic activity is not negatively impacted.

The final rule is expected to be similarly flexible. The language in this bill will only serve as a delay tactic, causing additional uncertainty for businesses and property owners, and this amendment would effectively strike these unnecessary sections from the bill.