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Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has Legislative hearing

Washington, October 17, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)’s Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). RAWA has broad 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.

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.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented biodiversity crisis. Without a change in the way we finance fish and wildlife conservation, the list of federally threatened and endangered species will grow from nearly 1,600 species today to thousands more in the future,” said Dingell. “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a bold investment in our nation’s wildlife will pay significant dividends. It will allow states to take proactive action that will prevent at-risk species from becoming endangered.”

“The climate crisis is wreaking havoc on our environment, and critical species across the world are at increased risk,” said Grijalva, Chair of House Natural Resources Committee. “It’s unthinkable that at this very moment, President Trump’s administration is actively working to destroy the laws that protect vulnerable species. That’s why the work being done in Congress is so important, and I applaud Rep. Dingell’s efforts. This bipartisan bill is one of the critical solutions we need to protect and recover America’s wildlife.”

“The catastrophic rise in extinction is a crisis not just for wildlife, but also for our economies, communities, and the future generations that will be robbed of the rich biodiversity and species we see today,” said Huffman, Chair of Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act provides important new tools  to address the threats facing our nation’s wildlife and all that depend on them.”

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.

Testifying at the hearing were Marnie Urso, Policy Director of Audubon Great Lakes, and Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the kind of bold and bipartisan action we need to address the crisis facing birds and other wildlife,” said Marnie Urso, Policy Director of Audubon Great Lakes. “The legislation would provide significant benefits for birds, and for the values they provide to people. This bill provides dedicated funding to help state wildlife agencies proactively conserve vulnerable species. Congress has the opportunity to not only help wildlife, but also the economy and our communities.”

“It’s not too late to save America’s wildlife — but the greatest ally of extinction is inaction. Unleashing collaborative conservation in every corner of the country through the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the best chance we have to win our race against the clock. We are grateful to Representatives Dingell and Fortenberry for their visionary leadership on this critical issue that will ultimately affect us all. By acting today, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren inherit a full symphony of birds, streams teeming with fish, and grasslands dotted by herds of pronghorn,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

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.

·         A 2018 report, Reversing America’s Wildlife Crisis: Securing the Future of Our Fish and Wildlife, found that one-third of America’s wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction. More than 150 U.S. species have already gone extinct and an additional 500 species have not been seen in recent decades and are regarded as possibly extinct.

·         Last session’s House bill (H.R. 4647) garnered 117 cosponsors with both parties strongly represented.

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