TWS recommends stimulus funding for wildlife professionals

The Wildlife Society wrote to lawmakers last week urging them to provide the necessary resources to support the work of wildlife professionals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other pressing wildlife disease and management issues in the next pandemic stimulus bill.

“Wildlife professionals have been impacted in various ways by the current pandemic. Travel to do field work, the hiring of summer and seasonal employees and other aspects of their work at the interface of wildlife diseases and human health are delayed or canceled,” said Caroline Murphy, AWB®, government relations manager at The Wildlife Society. “We hope that, in working with Congress to pass strong stimulus legislation, we can address these concerns and provide wildlife professionals with the resources they need to continue their front-line work against wildlife diseases.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States that began two months ago, Congress has passed one stimulus bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and is in the process of developing additional legislation to help the country weather the crisis.

The Wildlife Society’s recommendations include several programs and pieces of legislation through which Congress can empower wildlife professionals to address the risk of wildlife-to-human disease transmission with a multifaceted approach that includes prevention, surveillance, management, monitoring and research. The letter suggested enhancements and modifications to existing programs as well as the adoption of new programs to allow wildlife professionals to respond to some of the nation’s most pressing wildlife disease and management issues.

The letter recommended increasing funding for the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, USDA-Wildlife Services’ Methods Development program and research grant programs with the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. It also recommended that Congress modernize and strengthen the process, developed under the Lacey Act, designed to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious species and species that could cause harm to human or wildlife resources.

TWS also stressed the need for new conservation programs that will allow current and future wildlife professionals to be put to work on wildlife disease, conservation and natural infrastructure projects and recommended including the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in the next stimulus package. The landmark legislation would provide $1.4 billion in dedicated annual funding for enacting state, territorial and tribal wildlife conservation projects to conserve at-risk wildlife species.

The letter emphasized the job insecurity and uncertainty affecting many wildlife professionals.  “Many of our 15,000 members and affiliates work in seasonal and short-term positions that are subject to job insecurity during the best of times, let alone during this current season of uncertainty,” the letter read. “The programs and agencies [in this letter] provide valuable work opportunities for wildlife professionals and many other Americans. Advancements and modifications to their operations are required to ensure professionals are best able to continue their work in support of the public interest.”

Header Image: The Wildlife Society provided suggestions to Congress on responding to wildlife disease as management issues, as lawmakers consider the next pandemic stimulus bill. Credit: BLM Oregon/Washington