Endangered Species Act blasted by U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Resources.

“We need to take a hard look at the purpose and balance of the Endangered Species Act.” Ken Calvert, U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Resources Subcommittee Chairman.

By J. Zane Walley


Belen, New Mexico –A recent 10th Circuit Court decision decreed that under the Endangered Species Act, that the Rio Grande endangered silvery minnow has a higher priority for water than any other user, including farmers, ranchers and municipalities. The severity of that decision to the economy of Albuquerque, downstream communities, recreation and agriculture prompted the U.S. Congress to hold a field hearing in Belen, New Mexico.

The U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Resources came to Belen, on September 6th to conduct a formal inquiry into the endangered silvery minnow's negative impact on New Mexico residents. However, as the congressional field hearing unfolded, to an audience of about 250 attendees from several states, it became apparent by strong statements from committee members, that in a larger sense, the committee was examining the potential impact of the Endangered Species Act on communities and states across America.

Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, (R-CA) set the theme for the hearing, when he said for the record, “The Endangered Species Act has become a tool used by vocal and well?funded special interest groups, and needs to be fixed.”

Pombo’s fellow California Congressman, and Resources Subcommittee Chairman, Ken Calvert (R-CA) stated his like views firmly. “The silvery minnow ruling sent a shockwave of uncertainty through Western states. The ruling essentially ignores the nation's fundamental notion of private property freedoms by exerting federal control over locally-controlled water resources. The ruling primarily means that the Endangered Species Act – for the first time, takes precedence over urban water supplies. When court decisions put our communities second, we need to take a hard look at the purpose and balance of the Endangered Species Act.” Congressman Calvert further stated, “More money is being spent on litigation, than saving species. No one ever intended this law to become the full employment act for lawyers and environmentalist extremists’, but I’m concerned it’s going in that direction. It is time for a fresh look at the ESA.”

Endangered Species Act blasted by U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Resources.

The U.S. House Committee on Resources carries considerable weight and regulatory authority. Among the federal agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction are: the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, The Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that listed the silvery minnow as an endangered species. Further, the Endangered Species Act is a statute under the jurisdiction of the committee.

Members of Congress present at the September 6th hearing in Belen, New Mexico

The Honorable Richard Pombo, California , 11th District
The Honorable Ken Calvert, California , 44th District
The Honorable Steven Pearce, New Mexico , 2nd District
The Honorable Joe Baca, California , 43rd District

The Honorable Heather Wilson, New Mexico , 1st District

Witness Panel

The Honorable Anthony Ortiz
Governor, Pueblo of San Felipe

Ms. Jessica Sanchez
Family farmer and rancher
Belen, New Mexico

Ms. Eileen Grevey?Hilson
Agua Vida, Resources
Albuquerque , New Mexico

Letty Beli
Environmental attorney
Albuquerque, New Mexico

John D'Antonio
New Mexico State Engineer
Santa Fe, New Mexico.

U.S. Congressman, and committee member Steve Pearce, R?NM noted, for the record, “I witnessed the 10th Circuit release 50 years’ worth of water in one year. That’s like saving up your whole life, for nothing.” In a written statement, Pearce further said, “The minnow is not more important than our families, our land, our communities, or our way of life. The ESA has since gone though a series of bureaucratic and legal changes that have caused it to become an enormous problem for our communities, counties, local leaders, families and agriculture producers. We cannot let the ESA control the rights of our state, or those of our farmers and ranchers.”
Pearce’s comments were seconded by NM Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who noted, “The court’s (silvery minnow) decision has enormous consequences for all Western states, where water is such a valuable resource and critical part of the economy.” This decision sets a precedent we can’t allow to stand. If (the federal government) can take water from the Rio Grande, they can take water from anybody.”

The views of the Committee on Resources were echoed by a large majority placard carrying demonstrators in the parking lot of Belen High school, location of the September 6th hearing.

Ronnie Merritt, New Mexico rancher, and chairman of the Environmental Conservation Organization stated, “The Endangered Species Act has been successful! Successful in destroying ranching! Successful in destroying farming! Successful in destroying logging and mining, and now…now it is successful in destroying the economy of Albuquerque!

Merritt’s points were echoed at the hearing by witness Jessica Sanchez, a Belen farmer. Sanchez said, “My grandfather lost more than 30 percent of his crops this year, because of the minnow.” Eileen Grevey Hillson, a water advisor to business groups, said the doubt created by the court ruling is also bad for the Albuquerque and New Mexico economy. “Businesses will not locate here, because of the uncertainly of a water supply,” she testified to the Committee.

All but one witness – Letty Beli, an environmental attorney, agreed that the silvery minnow ruling is a calamity for New Mexico, and must be reversed or blocked by Congress.

Contact: J. Zane Walley
Environmental Conservation Organization, Inc
Lincoln, New Mexico
Email: frc@pvtnetworks.net
Direct Office Line: 505-653-4024
Fax: 505-653-4658
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