Jonesboro, Ark. – Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-1) announced the witness list for the U.S. House of Representative’s Natural Resources Committee field hearing in Batesville on Wednesday, May 14 regarding a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Critical Habitat Designation (CHD).
The hearing, entitled Protecting the Rights of Property Owners: Proposed Federal Critical Habitat Designations Gone Wild, will host 10 witnesses, including seven from across Arkansas and three from out of state. Congressman Crawford said the witness list includes a diverse mix of private, state, and federal interests.
“These CHDs issued by Fish and Wildlife have far-reaching impacts across Arkansas,” Crawford said. “We need a good representation relaying to my House colleagues how harmful and impactful these blindly-implemented designations can be to landowners.”
According to the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC), FWS CHDs affect nearly 770 Arkansas river miles covering 31 counties; nearly 42 percent of the state’s geographical area. In response, Congressman Crawford introduced H.R. 4319 in March, the Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2014. Crawford’s bill amends the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, requiring government agencies in charge of determining a CHD — such as FWS — to perform a true analysis of how a designation will affect an area’s lives and livelihoods.
“The Common Sense in Species Protection Act ensures a true economic impact study on the people, businesses, and municipalities in the proposed area will take place before any private or public property is put in a Critical Habitat Designation,” said Crawford. “The cumulative approach currently used by Fish and Wildlife doesn’t have the common sense necessary to prevent an agency overreach for private and public land owners.”
In addition to the list of 10 witnesses, Crawford’s office has invited public participation. Before and after the hearing, Congressional staffers will video up to two minutes of Citizen Comments from concerned individuals. Crawford’s office will then relay those comments to the Natural Resources Committee.
The final list of hearing witnesses includes:
1) Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director from Washington, D.C.;
2) Marcus Creasy, Arkansas Cattleman’s Association board member from Heber Springs;
3) Joe Fox, Arkansas Forestry Commission state forester from Little Rock;
4) Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity endangered species director from Portland, Ore.;
5) Gregory Hamilton, PhD, University of Arkansas Little Rock Institute for Economic Advancement senior research economist from Little Rock;
6) Roland McDaniel, GBMC & Associates principal, senior scientist from Bryant;
7) Gene Pharr, agricultural producer from Lincoln;
8) Cyn Sarthou, Gulf Restoration Network executive director from New Orleans;
9) Randy Veach, Arkansas Farm Bureau president from Manila; and
10) Curtis Warner, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation director of compliance and support from Little Rock.
Wednesday’s hearing will begin at 10 a.m. at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville’s Independence Hall. Cub Scout Pack 600’s Trey Moody and Ben Gunderman will present the Colors and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Pastor David Insell of Believers Community Church of Batesville will then offer the prayer and invocation. Lastly, City of Batesville mayor Rick Elumbaugh will welcome attendees before the hearing begins.
The hearing itself seeks input from affected private and public landowners, businesses, and concerned citizens about FWS’ overprotection of two mussel species, the Neosho Mucket and the Rabbitsfoot mussel through the ESA.
The Natural Resources Committee will broadcast a live video stream of the hearing at http://naturalresources.house.gov/live. However, Congressman Crawford said he encourages Arkansans to participate through attendance and public comment.
“The Neosho Mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussel CHDs affect more than just our state,” Crawford said. “They reach Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Our states must demand FWS use common sense before stripping away the rights of property owners. With this hearing, we’ve got a good opportunity to do so, and I hope we take advantage of it.”