Conservation in Congress for 2020

By Laura Bies

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was identified as a species of greatest conservation need in 40 states in 2015. ©USFWS

The second session of the 116th Congress will likely see progress on some of the conservation priorities advanced in 2019.

Legislation passed by the House, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act, will be considered by the Senate, where its bipartisan support may help its chances of passage. Legislation that has already been approved by committee should move forward to a vote on the floor.

“We are optimistic about the progress some wildlife policies stand to make in the second half of the 116th Congress,” said Caroline Murphy, AWB®, government relations manager at The Wildlife Society. “We appreciate Congress’ support for TWS priorities such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and look forward to its continued movement in the new year.”

However, the impending presidential election means that progress will likely slow on Capitol Hill as November approaches. In addition, the Senate will consider the articles of impeachment against President Trump passed by the House in late December, which will take precedence over any other impending Senate business.

Appropriations

Even though the final funding bill for Fiscal Year 2020 was just passed, Congress will soon begin work on funding for FY 2021. The administration is expected to release its budget recommendations early in 2020. Then Congress will craft the 12 appropriations bills, providing funding for all federal agencies. However, given the elections and others political distractions such as the impeachment, congressional appropriators are unlikely to complete the process on time again, and most likely will resort to continuing resolutions to fund government agencies during the end of 2020, after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Pending Legislation

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742), which would provide about $1.4 billion to state, territorial and tribal wildlife agencies for the conservation of thousands of fish and wildlife species vulnerable to extinction, was approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources in early December and is ready for consideration on the House floor. It is also expected to be introduced in the Senate in 2020.

Report on Wild Horses

Congress is awaiting a long-overdue report from the Bureau of Land Management on horses and burros managed under federal law. First requested by appropriators in Feb. 2019 as part of the FY 2019 spending bill, the report will include options for managing populations of the ecologically feral species, along with cost estimates for those strategies. Congress instructed the BLM to submit the report within 180 days of the bill’s passage. Last month, Congress withheld some FY 2020 funding from the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program until the report is submitted.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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