The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission see today’s introduction of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in the U.S. House of Representatives as landmark legislation that could provide more care for Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s growing list of fish and wildlife with the greatest conservation needs.
The bipartisan legislation introduced by Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) with at least 61 bipartisan cosponsors, including four from Pennsylvania, would dedicate $1.3 billion annually by Congress to states to conserve troubled fish and wildlife.
Similar legislation was introduced in the 115th U.S. Congress in December 2017, calling for dedicated funding from $5 billion to $12 billion in annual revenues generated by energy- and mineral- extraction royalties currently collected by the federal government from industries on federal lands and waters. That bill, which had 116 cosponsors, reached the U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Hearings were held, but the bill went no further.
The legislation, now before Congress for its third consecutive year, has strong, bipartisan support for its innovative approach to solving America’s ongoing and deepening wildlife crisis. But like other historic conservation legislation – U.S. Migratory Bird Act, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell–Johnson), U.S. Endangered Species Act – it takes time to build majority support in the House and Senate and for Americans to remind their legislators of this country’s lasting commitment to wildlife conservation.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act proposes to provide sufficient funding to states to proactively conserve imperiled species identified in State Wildlife Action Plans. It is championed by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources, a think-tank of 26 energy, business and conservation leaders assembled in 2014 by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which serves North America’s state and provincial wildlife management agencies.
Pennsylvania currently receives about $1.5 million in federal State Wildlife Grant funds annually to manage the state’s 664 fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need and their associated habitats to work toward goals in the State Wildlife Action Plan.
Under the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, Pennsylvania would receive dedicated annual federal fish and wildlife conservation funding that could exceed $30 million to better address the conservation actions for these species.
“Sometimes our actions in the crusade for American wildlife seem like listening to a broken record,” noted Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “But that repetition is needed to reach the masses and drive home our message that wildlife needs you to step up, get involved.
“The dividends this act can provide Pennsylvania should make its passage important to anyone who wants healthy and diverse wildlife communities and all the benefits those creatures provide daily to millions of Americans,” Burhans noted. “If we fail, wildlife everywhere loses, and our outdoors will relinquish more of its enchanting beauty. We’re approaching the eleventh hour. The time to act is now.”
The Fish and Boat Commission also recognizes the almost unprecedented value and expanded coverage this legislation could provide Pennsylvania’s fish and wildlife conservation.
“The state fish and wildlife agencies across the nation greatly appreciate the bipartisan recognition by Congress that our nation’s fish and wildlife are in peril and need help and attention,” said Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director Tim Schaeffer. “While additional funding will be directed towards fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need, the conservation efforts that will be applied by the states will benefit all species and enhance fish and wildlife populations and communities for the benefit of all people who enjoy angling, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation.”
“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act legislation not only provides the states the requisite funding to continue the job of fish and wildlife management and conservation,” noted Schaeffer, “but also provides the necessary security to ensure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy all of the species that rely on clean water and healthy habitats.”
The Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission are working closely with state and national conservation partners to bring this once-in-a-lifetime initiative to a vote in Washington, D.C. The need for long-term dedicated funding is obvious, and the agencies are urging all Pennsylvania voters and conservationists to let legislators know how important the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is to them and Pennsylvania.
Estimates have a third of all American fish and wildlife as vulnerable or at risk.
Through federal funding provided by the State Wildlife Grants Program – created by Congress in 2000 – to support Pennsylvania’s species of greatest conservation need, conservation actions taken by the Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission, and partners have averted federal endangered species listings, such as the golden-winged warbler, and led to state delisting of several species: bald eagle, osprey, silver chub and spotted darter. Right now, wildlife needs all the friends it can muster to get the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act across the finish line.
“Our existing funding model can no longer keep up with the needs of the full array of fish and wildlife in this country,” said Ron Regan, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies executive director. “This bill will allow all Americans to become investors in conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife heritage.”
The emphasis of Wildlife Action Plans is proactive management that keeps marginal wildlife populations from slipping into more expensive care. In fact, most species identified in Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Action Plan do not appear on state or federal threatened or endangered species lists. But most also aren’t receiving sufficient care; there isn’t enough federal funding to provide it.
Pennsylvania is renowned for its enchanting mountains, meandering rivers and expansive marshes. But what value does it have without fish and wildlife? They’re the pulse of the Commonwealth’s great outdoors, what makes it so unforgettable.
To get involved, all Pennsylvanians are asked to contact their legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives and ask them to support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Let them know America’s conservation of imperiled fish and wildlife currently is insufficient and that the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would bridge the funding shortfalls that make compromised fish and wildlife more vulnerable.
To learn more about the management of Pennsylvania’s wildlife and the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website at www.pgc.pa.gov. To learn more about the management of fish, reptiles, amphibians and other aquatic life, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website at www.fishandboat.com. To learn more about Recovering America’s Wildlife Act visit OurNatureUSA.com.
Courtesy of Pennsylvania Game Commission