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Dingell, Fortenberry, Conservation & Sportsmen’s Leaders Lead Bipartisan Bill to Protect America’s Wildlife

Washington, July 12, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) reintroduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) with the support of conservation and sportsmen’s leaders. This bipartisan legislation would help promote and enhance our nation’s conservation efforts, and ensure the long-term health of fish and wildlife throughout the country.

A live stream of the press conference on Capitol Hill is available here and photos are available here.

RAWA is the most signification investment in wildlife and habitat conservation in a generation. The bill would dedicate roughly $1.4 billion to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program for proactive, voluntary efforts led by the states, territories and tribal nations to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered.

“Bold solutions are needed to safeguard our nation’s wildlife from further decline,” said Dingell. “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents a strong commitment to addressing the current biodiversity crisis using innovative, state-based management that will safeguard our nation’s environmental heritage for current and future generations.”

“RAWA is a smart upstream policy that promotes continuity of habitats and helps prevent the costly downstream emergency room procedures of the Endangered Species Act. Through proactive, collaborative, and voluntary partnerships with states, RAWA enhances community recreational opportunity for birders, hikers, hunters, anglers and all who enjoy the beauty of nature,” said Fortenberry.

The text of RAWA is available here. Fact sheets from the National Wildlife Federation is available here, and from Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife here.

“America's sportsmen and women have been the primary funders of state-based conservation efforts to this day, however, there is an increasing need to provide additional funding to state agencies to address the 12,000 species that are falling through the cracks,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) President Jeff Crane. “This strongly bipartisan legislation provides critical financial resources to state agencies, allowing them the opportunity to conduct on-the-ground projects, which benefit species that are in the greatest need of conservation efforts.”

“More than one-third of all wildlife species in the United States are at-risk or vulnerable to extinction. If we are serious about saving our wildlife heritage, we must invest in on-the-ground solutions that match the magnitude of the crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We can overcome America’s wildlife crisis by restoring and reconnecting habitat, removing invasive species, eradicating wildlife diseases, reducing pollution, and mitigating climate impacts — the future of the natural world depends upon us.

“Our nation’s fish and wildlife are among its most valuable resources, along with clean air, water, healthy forests and agricultural lands that support all of us,” stated Ed Carter, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Today we find ourselves facing wildlife species declines that could alter our children’s and grandchildren’s opportunities to enjoy these resources. By investing in our State Wildlife Action Plans, which contain prioritized actions for restoring and managing the most imperiled species within our states’ borders, we will be ensuring future generations can enjoy our rich wildlife heritage. In essence, we are performing preventative maintenance, addressing concerns before they become a crisis. It is by far the most economical way to proceed and the chance of success is exponentially greater.”

“State Wildlife Action Plans have proven that species can be recovered through voluntary, non-regulatory mechanisms.” said The Wildlife Society President Darren Miller. “Species such as the New England cottontail and the North American river otter have rebounded as a result of these plans, and other species such as the Delmarva fox squirrel and Louisiana black bear have recovered to the point of no longer needing Endangered Species Act protections. With the passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, we will further advance effective, collaborative conservation for the benefit of wildlife populations and the American public.” 

“Forty percent of the nation’s freshwater fish species are at risk from a variety of causes including water pollution, sedimentation, dams and other river and stream alterations. Fish and wildlife professionals can help to reverse these species declines if they have the proper funding to implement science-based conservation plans. Species like the eastern brook trout, a native fish that is imperiled in 17 states in the U.S., would benefit from the habitat restoration, water quality improvements and watershed connectivity that would be made possible through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. This bill provides the support and the certainty to reverse the disturbing declines in fish across the country,” said Douglas Austen, Executive Director of American Fisheries Society.

Dingell and Fortenberry first introduced the bill in 2017 based on a recommendation from a panel of conservation and business leaders. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, a group of national business and conservation leaders co-chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris and former Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal, convened in 2015 to recommend a new mechanism to sustainably fund fish and wildlife conservation. In March, 2016, the Panel recommended creating a $1.3 billion dedicated funding stream to support implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans in every state, territory, and the District of Columbia.

Without a change in the way we finance fish and wildlife conservation, the list of federally threatened and endangered species is expected to grow from nearly 1,600 species today to thousands more in the future. The new dedicated funding created by the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is aimed at preventing wildlife from becoming endangered to ensure the long-term health of all fish and wildlife that provide countless hours of outdoor enjoyment for the nation’s citizens.

Built on the premise that the best way to save America’s wildlife is through collaborative, proactive, on-the ground conversation, RAWA would help recover 12,000 species considered in need, including more than 1,600 species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

About the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act:

  • The bill will fund conservation efforts for more than 12,000 species of wildlife and plants in need of assistance by providing $1.397 billion in dedicated annual funding for proactive, on-the-ground efforts in every state and territory.
  • The bill will hasten the recovery of 1,600 U.S. species already listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  
  • Wildlife recovery efforts will be guided by the Congressionally-mandated State Wildlife Action Plans, which identify specific strategies to restore the populations of species of greatest conservation need.
  • Tribal Nations would receive $97.5 million annually to fund proactive wildlife conservation efforts on roughly 140 million acres of land.
  • The bill complements the highly successful Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson) and Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson), which have facilitated the state-led recovery of a range of large mammals, game birds, and sportfish that faced potential extinction last century.

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