The House Committee on Resources has a hearing scheduled today on what may be the most comprehensive Endangered Species Act reform package ever, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act. And while it is not necessarily on a fast track in Congress, it may seem like it, after years of calls for E.S.A.. reform by several House and Senate members. That's because the hearing comes two days after a formal introduction of the bill in press conferences, first in Sacramento California and later in Klamath Falls Oregon. Key sponsors of the bill in attendance at the press conferences included Committee chair Richard Pombo, Dennis Cardoza, and George Radanovich, all U.S. Representatives from California, and Oregon Representative Greg Walden.
WALDEN: My legislation on sound science, Congressman Cardoza's legislation on critical habitat, and others that have had bills, have all sort of put those aside, and have been working with the Chairman and other members of the Committee to put together this piece of legislation which we've all rallied around now to support, incorporates I think the best of all of our bills in a way that builds broad, bi-partisan support and really gives us the first realistic chance of passing significant modernization and improvements to the Endangered Species Act in thirty years.
Walden's optimism is understandable. He has been part of a new coalition of House and Senate members focused on E.S.A.. reform that has spent the last year determining how best to get such reform through Congress. The result, Walden says, is a bill that calls for a common sense approach towards E.S.A..
WALDEN: It establishes priority ranking of species most in need of recovery. It requires Department of Interior to report that ranking to Congress on a regular basis along with the recovery programs and their progress. For too long, this process have been driven by somebody appealing or litigating and that becomes the next priority for the agency, and yet it may not be the priority for the species. You may have another species and more trouble than one being litigated on. And yet the resources get siphoned off for whatever's latest.
The House Committee on Resources does plan to take the measure for a vote before the full House, and according to Walden, it should be soon.
WALDEN: I'm hopeful that within the next few weeks perhaps by the end of this month, perhaps by the end of October, we could have this legislation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.