Groundbreaking legislation provides critical funding for fish and wildlife in greatest need
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources strongly supports 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. – introduced groundbreaking legislation that provides a critical source of funding to conserve those fish and wildlife in greatest need across the country.
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. 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.”
More than 300 different wildlife species in Michigan need proactive measures to be taken to prevent them from becoming endangered.
“Currently there is little funding available until wildlife is in dire straits, and at that point it’s harder and much more expensive to recover the species,” said Dan Kennedy, DNR endangered species coordinator. “This legislation will fund work to help at-risk wildlife before they need the ‘emergency room’ measures of the Endangered Species Act.”
States also will be able to use a portion of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act funds to enhance outdoor recreation such as wildlife viewing, nature photography and trails, as well as for wildlife education programs in places like nature centers and schools.
Those interested in supporting passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act are asked to visit OurNatureUSA.com for more information about the legislation and to contact their U.S. senators and representatives.