The Cost of Conservation — Priceless
A few years ago, an advertising campaign for a credit card company featured a series of commercials with the heart-warming theme, the best things in life can’t be bought. This thought strikes me as one that should be applied to wildlife.
Last October, states and territories submitted the second generation of their State Wildlife Actions Plans to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plans not only highlight species of greatest conservation need in each state, but also prioritize protection of habitats and species. Collectively, they represent a blueprint for conserving valuable wildlife and habitat before they become too rare or costly to restore.
Given the enormous amount of time and effort that went into constructing each plan and what they mean to future generations of Americans, we have dedicated the entire May/June issue of The Wildlife Professional to the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plans.
Seven states — Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota and Virginia — responded to our invitation to write an article for the issue. We thank them for their participation and for sharing their stories, which describe diverse species ranging from hellbenders to wood bison as well as the complexities and challenges of developing a state wildlife plan.
But as the wildlife community knows, funding conservation efforts outlined in the plans is a major concern, not only for financially strapped states but also for the federal government — which is where the price tag for priceless wildlife becomes a reality.
With hundreds of species of greatest conservation need at stake — and in some cases at risk of federal listing under the Endangered Species Act — wildlife professionals need to make their voices heard in Congress where the funds to support the plans are appropriated. A Blue Ribbon Panel assembled by the Association of Fish and Wildlife recently called for increased funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program that help support state conservation efforts (see page 14). Obviously, this considerable increase hinges on convincing congressmen and senators that the money will be put to good use and has value to Americans.
As Congress allocates taxpayers’ money to the needs of hundreds of worthwhile programs, will there be enough to support wildlife conservation efforts? In this time of political gridlock, the prospects look grim unless more is done to convince legislators to back sustainable funding.
But let’s remember that success stories like that of the New England cottontail have been written and more are possible with the cooperation and support of partners and citizen scientists.
I hope you will enjoy reading this issue as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.
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