Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Wednesday, February 4, 2004
Walden Testifies on Need for Endangered Species Act Reform
Testimony before Resources Committee urged support for legislation to require scientific peer review of Endangered Species Act decisions
WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) offered testimony today in support of legislation he has introduced in Congress to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Walden’s legislation, the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2003 (HR 1662), would require that greater weight be given to field-tested and scientifically peer-reviewed data under the ESA. Walden’s testimony was delivered today before the Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, which held a hearing today entitled, "Issues Affecting Jobs in the Forest Industry."
Since the 2001 water crisis in the Klamath Basin, Walden has helped lead the effort in Congress to require ESA decisions to be field-tested and peer-reviewed. In April of 2001, more than 1,200 farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin were denied irrigation water following a decision made by federal officials under the ESA. The water-shut off was later determined by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to have been made without sound scientific justification.
Excerpts of Walden’s testimony follow.
"We learned from the NAS that the decisions made either weren't based on adequate science or were made by misinterpreting the data they had. In either case, more than 1,000 farm families didn't receive vital irrigation water and nearly two-dozen farmers went bankrupt. I pledged then and there to pursue changes in the ESA to require outside, independent peer review of the decisions made by the government when it comes to listing or delisting a species and in formulation of recovery plans."
Walden continued, "If you went to a doctor and he said to you, ‘we are going to have to take off your right leg,’ you'd probably want a second opinion. Right now under the Endangered Species Act, plants, animals and people don't have the chance to seek a second opinion; you just get cut you off at the knees. That is why I feel so strongly about this issue and why we have tried to take a very reasonable and prudent course to improve the decision-making process and make sure the science is valid and the decisions are sound. Too much is at stake to do less than that."
Walden’s bipartisan ESA reform legislation has been cosponsored by 62 House members, including eight Democrats. HR 1662 had also been endorsed by 14 state and national organizations, including the Oregon Wheat Growers League, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, the Oregon Potato Commission, the Oregon State Board of Agriculture, the Klamath Water Users Associations, the American Farm Bureau, the National Grange, the National Association of Homebuilders, the National Association of Realtors, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Water Resources Association.
On January 20, 2004, Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-OR) introduced identical legislation to Walden’s bill in the U.S. Senate.
To read Walden’s testimony in its entirety, click here: http://walden.house.gov/issues/esa/108thcongress/ESAstatement.pdf.
Congressman Walden represents the Second District of Oregon, which includes 20 counties in southern, central and eastern Oregon. He is a Deputy Whip and a member of both the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Resources.
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