In a major step towards securing increased funding for conservation efforts, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) was introduced in the House of Representatives on July 6.
Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced the bipartisan bill. If passed, the legislation would dedicate $1.3 billion in federal funds annually to state conservation programs, as recommended by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources in March 2016.
The Panel, comprised of conservation, industry, and former government leaders, was formed in Sept. 2014 by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to evaluate current conservation funding mechanisms and make recommendations for improvements. They determined that $1.3 billion in annual federal funds is needed for states to successfully implement their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs).
States designate ‘Species of Greatest Conservation Needs’, including threatened, endangered, rare, and declining species. SWAPs are then designed to direct conservation actions that ensure the conservation and appropriate management of those species. Proponents of the bill believe that improved funding will facilitate delisting threatened and endangered species, and will help prevent the listing of others. Across the 50 states, approximately 12,000 species have been identified as conservation concerns and would benefit from H.R. 5650.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps fund state conservation efforts through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, which has typically received $40-70 million federal funds in recent years. If the introduced legislation is passed into law, the annual $1.3 billion would fund the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Account, which is authorized by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937. The funds would then be distributed to the states to use towards the conservation of a variety of wildlife species, in addition to conservation education and recreation programs.
The bill calls for funding to be sourced from revenue from energy and resource development on federal lands and waters.
The Wildlife Society supports this legislation as a positive development in the effort to support wildlife professionals and science-based conservation and management of our wildlife resources.