Wildlife agencies, groups applaud Senate introduction of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

(Michigan DNR)

The Michigan DNR was among a number of natural resources agencies and groups that recently supported the introduction of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in the U.S. Senate.

Senators James Risch, R-Idaho, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. – along with their colleagues Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. – earlier this week introduced groundbreaking legislation that provides a critical source of funding to conserve those fish and wildlife in greatest need across the country, the DNR said in a news release.

The bill will redirect $1.3 billion annually from energy development on federal lands and waters to the existing Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program to conserve fish and wildlife, the DNR said, adding that this solution, recommended initially by the energy sector, complements existing natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation programs and will not require taxpayers or businesses to pay more, but instead allows all Americans to become investors in taking care of fish and wildlife.

Michigan’s Debbie Dingell, D-12th District – along with Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. – introduced the House version of the bill in December 2017. It has gained strong, bipartisan support due to its innovative approach to solving America’s wildlife crisis. The current list of co-sponsors has grown to 75 members, including Michigan congressmen Jack Bergman, R-1st District, and Daniel Kildee, D-5th District.

“The funding model that this legislation will create is better for taxpayers, businesses and – most importantly – fish and wildlife that are in danger,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “It’s similar to the successful Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund program, which uses funding from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned minerals to conserve natural resources and provide public outdoor recreation. Since 1976, the Trust Fund has awarded more than $1.1 billion to help every county in our state acquire land, improve outdoor recreation and strengthen the economy of local communities.”

If the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is fully funded, Michigan would receive an additional estimated $31 million per year in federal funding for at-risk fish and wildlife. This money could be used for efforts such as restoring habitat, fighting invasive species, reintroducing native species and monitoring emerging diseases.

“Michigan’s hunters and anglers have been the primary funders of wildlife conservation efforts in the state until now,” said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR Wildlife Division. “This funding will complement the contributions of sportsmen and women to keep our fish and wildlife thriving well into the future.”

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will support Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan, developed as a proactive and strategic approach to conserving the state’s rare fish and wildlife, which is being implemented by partners in government agencies, businesses and nongovernmental organizations across the state.

“States are well-suited to manage fish and wildlife, and we have proven successful with recovery efforts for species like lake sturgeon and Kirtland’s warbler,” said Jim Dexter, chief of the DNR Fisheries Division. “Additional funding will allow us to expand our ongoing efforts to ensure healthy fish and wildlife populations – those that are hunted and fished as well as those that aren’t.”

The National Wild Turkey Federation also made its support known in a news release this week.

“Today, 33 percent of all U.S. species are at risk of becoming endangered if we do not intervene,” NWTF CEO Becky Humphries said. “For more than 75 years, outdoorsmen and women have shouldered the burden in paying for conservation efforts. Unfortunately, those funds are no longer adequate to meet the growing needs of our wildlife and wild places. With Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, all American’s become vested in conservation without being burdened with additional taxes.”

If the act becomes law, Idaho Fish and Game intends to use its share of the funds to implement Idaho’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the agency said in a. news release. The plan provides strategic direction to use non-regulatory, action-based solutions to conserve fish and wildlife with an emphasis on more than 200 species of greatest conservation need, which include greater sage-grouse, wolverine and wild steelhead, the release said.

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would allow the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to devote additional resources to species of concern without detracting from others. That in turn would benefit the management of all fish and wildlife in Idaho and the citizens who enjoy it through better conservation and also enhancing the rich tradition of hunting and fishing,” Fish and Game Commission Chairman Derick Attebury said.

And in Nebraska, in August, the state Game and Parks Commission passed a resolution supporting the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to diversify and expand funding for the thousands of plants and animals in Nebraska.

“We can’t adequately address the changing needs of our constituents or the needs of all of Nebraska’s fish and wildlife with the resources we currently have,” said Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas. “This funding source will ensure that future generations can enjoy thriving fish and wildlife populations.”

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