U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, questioned Mr. John Kennedy, Deputy Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Mr. Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation at an EPW hearing today entitled “From Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bear to the Chesapeake’s Delmarva Fox Squirrel—Successful State Conservation, Recovery, and Management of Wildlife.”
Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for taking me out of turn. We have a conflict in the Armed Services Committee, but this is so significant to me and that I wanted to be sure to get on record, as we have many times before, back at the time that I used to be chairing this committee.
Our Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has been doing a great job conserving species in my state of Oklahoma—the Oklahoma Paddlefish management program was responsible for the fact that it is now thriving in Oklahoma and yet other states are on the decline. The same thing is true, in fact it's been taken off the listing, of our Swift Fox, our Mountain Plover, which is a bird, and been withdrawn from the petition. So, good things are happening there.
I would mention, though, that the Lesser Prairie Chicken was not one of our successes. We say, Mr. Kennedy, we partnered in the last, about four years ago, with New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, and Colorado. So the five of us, our states, partnered together, put together a program for the Lesser Prairie Chicken and its one that was very very successful. We increased the population, we had some buy-in of various stakeholders to prevent threatening and listing and yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife—you've got to keep in mind that when you're dealing with a bureaucracy, there's this idea that they do a better job than we do at the state level.
So Mr. Kennedy, I think some of the listings actually have a negative effect on the conservation efforts. Don't states have more flexibility when it comes to conservation efforts over the years? Say, what's your experience?
Kennedy: Chairman Barrasso, Senator, Members of the Committee, I think that you explained it quite well. There’s some frustration and that frustration comes into play when you get past the science and the good work that's taking place on the ground. There's some bureaucracy that can come and get in the way, certainly. I would agree with that.
These listings take a lot of time and we have limited staff, resources to deal with these and certainly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has limitations and if you look at the number of listings nationwide that takes place and the work that’s required, there's no wonder why these things take a lot of time.
It also diverts a lot of time and expertise away from the states and their current priorities that they're working on, to work on these recovery goals and listing decisions. So, it's become, you know, in my opinion, the Endangered Species Act, I think I agree with all the comments that have been made and the testimonies that have been provided, but it has become a regulatory tool for litigants to direct federal land management activities and/or state wildlife management goals as opposed to a conservation measure.
Inhofe: I appreciate that and Mr. McCormick, I know that the Farm Bureau has been very active in activating people. This concept that they care more about their land than any bureaucrat in Washington does and as a matter of fact, we had Dan Ashe, who is the head of the Fish and Wildlife of the last administration and he actually learned himself.
He went out during his confirmation, I got a commitment for him to spend, to make two trips out to Oklahoma to talk to our land owners and he came back with the idea that in fact, that is a better way of doing it. And what's been your experience?
McCormick: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Sen. Inhofe, I think you're exactly right. Farmers have but one goal and that is to pass our land, our farms on to the next generation better than we found it today and we certainly want to have wildlife there for our children and grandchildren and future of our—
Inhofe: And you're aware of the partnership program? The partnership program is one that brings the land owners in with the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife and that's what was expanded dramatically during that time when the administration actually was initially opposed to it. So is that working in Mississippi?
McCormick: I'm not aware of that, Senator, but I'm sure our staff is on that particular issue.
Inhofe: Working well. Tell your staff they're doing a good job. Thank you Mr. Chairman.