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Congressional Hearing was held in Fontana , California on the Impact of the Endangered Species Act on the Inland Empire

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA (September 10, 2004) – The House Resources Committee, led by Chairman Richard Pombo, heard testimony to examine the impacts of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Southern California’s Inland Empire.  The Inland Empire includes all of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and a piece of the eastern part of Los Angeles County .  It encompasses all of the San Bernardino National Forest and popular off-road recreation sites such as Johnson Valley , Stoddard Valley , and Dumont Dunes.

Congressman Pombo opened the hearing by pointing out that the ESA is “broken” and needs to be “fixed”.  He stated that “during the past ten years, 1300 species have been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act and only 7 have ever been delisted.”

Roy Denner, President of the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA), joined the mayors of Fontana , Colton , and Rialto and a Fontana City Council member in presenting examples of how the Inland Empire has been negatively impacted by the ESA.  The popular species of the day for the local politicians was the “Delhi Sand Flower-Loving Fly.”  This is a fly that lives underground and only surfaces for two weeks in the fall to breed and then goes back underground.

Story after story was told about the many projects that this Fly has stopped or delayed.  According to the mayor of Fontana , several important freeway interchanges, drastically needed in the area to alleviate traffic congestion, have been held up for three years because they are in the Fly’s habitat.  Pictures provided by the mayor of Colton depict “Fly induced blight” showing areas that have been designated as the Fly’s critical habitat that have become dumping grounds for trash.  The city is prevented, by the requirements of the ESA, from going into the designated habitat to clean up the trash.

Congressman Joe Baca asked if anyone has ever seen one of these flies.  Not one person in attendance had ever seen a live Delhi Sand Flower-Loving Fly, although the Executive Director for the Endangered Habitats League, who also testified at the Hearing, indicated that he had actually seen a dead specimen and indicated that he felt it is important to “preserve all of Creation – including the Delhi Sands Fly and its ecosystem.”  Congressman Baca asked how one could identify the Fly.  He demonstrated, with a rolled up newspaper, what he would do if the unidentified fly landed in front of him – an act that could lead to jail time!

Denner addressed other ESA impacts within the Inland Empire .  He cited the Mojave Desert Tortoise as an example of a species listed as “threatened” under the ESA that was “listed with very little supporting science and has had a tremendous negative impact on the public use of public lands within the Inland Empire .”  He pointed out that “4 million acres of the 10 million acres of California Desert that is managed by the BLM have been designated as critical habitat for the Tortoise.”  An analysis by the General Accounting Office shows that over $100 million of taxpayer money has been spent on attempting to recover the Desert Tortoise and not one Tortoise can be shown to have been saved by the efforts.

ORBA’s President also described the closures of routes and trails, the elimination of logging, and the restrictions to clearing of underbrush and fire breaks in the San Bernardino National Forest – all in the name of protecting species.  He described how the popular resort cities of Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead were threatened last year by a forest fire fueled by the underbrush and inaccessible by fire fighting equipment due to trail closures.  “Trails that are blocked off to recreation vehicles are also blocked off to fire trucks” said Denner.

Julie MacDonald, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, testified that 100% of the Agency’s budget goes to respond to court orders resulting from lawsuits filed under the Endangered Species Act.  She indicated that it would take 10 years of the Agency’s current budget to respond to the huge backlog of existing court orders.  As a result, no funds remain to actually deal with managing the species in accordance with the ESA.  In the meantime, petition after petition, drafted by environmental organizations, are being filed to list new species.

Chairman Pombo closed the Hearing by telling everyone that he is working very hard in Congress to get support for bringing reason back to the ESA.  He stated that “nobody is asking to do away with the ESA.  It just needs to be modified to provide species protection in a way that can be managed.”

More ESA Links and Info

ORBA Home Page -- Businesses supporting off road recreation

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