RECOVERING AMERICA’S WILDLIFE ACT

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act:
A 21st Century Model of Wildlife Conservation Funding

State agency wildlife professionals and their partners work tirelessly on the conservation and management of wildlife populations within their state boundaries. A bill that would match the hard work of state wildlife employees with adequate financial support is on the horizon for passage this Congress.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 4647), introduced by Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) in late 2017, would provide $1.3 billion in dedicated annual funding to state fish and wildlife agencies. The funding would largely go toward conserving and monitoring state-identified at-risk species, known as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). The dedicated funds would come from revenue generated by energy and mineral extraction royalties currently collected by the federal government at about $5 billion to $12 billion annually.

Since 2000, state fish and wildlife agencies have pulled from a much smaller funding stream known as the State Wildlife Grants program. This program is vulnerable to the whims of Congressional appropriators each year, though, and it is typically only funded at about $50 million to $60 million annually. Such limited funding only provides state agencies with the ability to address a few of the SGCN-related projects deemed necessary within their conservation action blueprints, known as State Wildlife Action Plans. For example, in fiscal year 2017, wildlife professionals with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation had just $2.3 million to work with in order to conserve more than 350 at-risk species.

House Introduction

H.R. 4647 aims to drastically change this dynamic. This legislation would:

  • Implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources to address the financial needs faced by state fish and wildlife agencies and to keep species from facing costlier emergency conservation measures down the road.
  • Provide the $1.3 billion in royalty funds for state fish and wildlife agencies’ wildlife action plans.
  • Leverage funds from state agencies and partner organizations to provide 25 percent non-federal matching funds.
  • Provide greater regulatory certainty for oil and gas companies and other industries by conserving species and avoiding the need to list them under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Empower wildlife professionals to hold the nation’s wildlife in the public trust for generations to come by providing state agencies with the flexibility to conserve populations in an effective and cost-effective manner.

This legislation, which is the application of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations, has a growing number of bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives. You can check to see if your representative is listed as a cosponsor by going to congress.gov. 

Senate Introduction

The Senate version of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 3223) was introduced to the chamber in July 2018 by Senators James Risch, R-Idaho; Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota; and Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee. Unlike the House version which provides dedicated funding, the Senate version would require Congressional appropriators to decide how much funding is allocated to the program each year.

You can read more on the Senate introduction by checking out a joint statement on S. 3223 released by TWS and the American Fisheries Society. TWS is committed to advancing the dedicated funding mechanism as outlined within the House version of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and we are working with partners to carry this language forward.

What can TWS members and organizational units do to help?

Robust bipartisan support is essential to getting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act moving through Congress. As the TWS government relations staff and our partners continue to push this legislation on Capitol Hill, we will also be working with organizational units to provide additional, more tailored communications to specific members of Congress.

Chapters and sections can:

  • Write letters or resolutions in support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. For questions regarding the content of these supporting documents and what offices they should be sent to, please email cmurphy@wildlife.org.
  • Connect with local affiliates of the American Fisheries Society and the National Wildlife Federation to explore what efforts can be coordinated at the local level. You can check out the affiliates that have already pledged their support by viewing the National Wildlife Federation’s letter of support.
  • Check out the American Fisheries Society webinar that TWS took part in titled Support of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: A Guide to Grassroots Advocacy. This webinar provides ideas and insights to organization units looking to engage members of Congress through a  congressional field visit, an in-district meeting, and by dispersing grassroots messaging to organization unit membership.  You can also check out TWS’ and AFS’ notes and select videos from the webinar by clicking here.

Individual TWS members looking to get involved can:

  • Connect with the Conservation Affairs Network committee in your chapter or section to support your organizational unit’s efforts on this legislation.
  • Send a letter to your senator or representative requesting their support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act:
    • Check out House.gov to find your representative and connect with their website in order to fill out their online email form. See attached for a House form letter that can be adapted for your use.
    • Check out Senate.gov to find your senators and connect with their website in order to fill out their online email form. See attached for a Senate form letter that can be adapted for your use.

Please email cmurphy@wildlife.org to share any action you have taken on behalf of TWS or if you have any questions on how to take action.


 

See below for our relevant coverage:

“TWS advises Senate committee considering wildlife funding” Posted 11/20/2018
“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act reaches 100 co-sponsors” Posted 10/1/2018
“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Introduced in Senate” Posted 7/18/2018
“TWS co-hosts briefing to promote conservation” Posted on 06/28/2018
“America’s declining wildlife requires a proactive solution, report says” Posted on 03/29/2018
“Combined efforts raise support for Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” Posted on 03/23/2018
“TWS submits testimony on two wildlife funding bills” Posted on 02/22/2018
“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act legislation reintroduced” Posted on 12/15/2017
“TWS Conservation Affairs Network reports on leading policy issues” Posted on 10/21/2016
“$1.3 Billion wildlife funding bill introduced in House of Representatives” Posted on 07/11/2016