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 oil, gas and onshore mineral royalties currently collected by the federal government at about $7 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.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act 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.
What can TWS members and organizational units do to help?
Robust bipartisan support is essential to getting this legislation 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sign onto the National Wildlife Federation’s letter of support. The National Wildlife Federation is a partner in this effort alongside the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife. This coalition, comprised of national conservation organizations including TWS, NWF, American Fisheries Society, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is actively working in Washington and with its affiliates around the country to push this legislation forward.
- 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 regularly updated National Wildlife Federation letter.
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 representative requesting their support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Platforms such as democracy.io can be used to easily look up and send letters to your elected member in the House of Representatives. See attached for a form letter that can be adapted for your use. Please email email@example.com to share any action you’ve taken on behalf of TWS or if you have any questions on how to take action.
- 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 covered the fundamentals of a congressional field visit, the elements of a successful in-district meeting with a member of Congress, and how to prepare and deliver an elevator speech to spur a decision-maker into action. You can also check out TWS’ and AFS’ notes and select videos from the webinar by clicking here.