U.S. Representative for California’s 5th congressional district
In a special message to a Democratic Congress in 1972, Republican President Richard Nixon called on the House and Senate to pass legislation protecting endangered species. A year later, Congress responded with the Endangered Species Act, which President Nixon signed into law.[pullquote]It is our responsibility to be good stewards of Earth and prevent the extinction of wildlife, fish, plants, and insects.[/pullquote]
For forty years, the Endangered Species Act has preserved habitat and protected plants, insects, and animals from extinction. However, the Act is only as good as the people enforcing the law.
In recent years, there have been attempts in Congress to roll back the gains made by the Endangered Species Act. One such effort involved a legislative assault that would have prevented the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service from using any funding to list new species under the Act.
Working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we defeated this provision known as the Extinction Rider. If the Extinction Rider had been in effect four decades ago, the American bald eagle, our national bird, would be extinct. Had it passed this time around, the future existence of today’s threatened and endangered species like the polar bear, American crocodile, and green sea turtles would be in jeopardy.
It is our responsibility to be good stewards of Earth and prevent the extinction of wildlife, fish, plants, and insects. The sad truth is that once we lose a species, we will never get it back. That is why we must do everything we can to protect and restore endangered species.
Throughout my career, I have worked on efforts to restore the habitats of endangered Coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. While in the California State Senate, I wrote the Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Act, which provided significant multi-year funding for projects dedicated to the restoration of salmon and steelhead watersheds and streams.
In 2002, after severely low water levels resulted in a massive fish die-off in the Klamath River, the Department of the Interior (DOI) still wouldn’t release more water to allow the fish to spawn. To get their attention, I dropped off 500 pounds of dead salmon at DOI.
The protection of threatened and endangered salmon is still ongoing. Recovering our iconic salmon is critical for the environment, as well as for the fishing industry they support. This is why I am working with my colleagues in Congress to pass the Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act. If enacted into law, the Act would enable Coho salmon to reclaim 68 miles of historic habitat, steelhead would regain 420 miles of historic habitat, and commercially harvested Chinook salmon production would increase by more than 80 percent.
It was a spirit of bipartisanship that brought us the Endangered Species Act forty years ago. By working together in that same spirit, we can protect and recover our endangered and threatened species so our kids and grandkids can enjoy the same abundance of wildlife that we have today.