America’s fish and wildlife are in crisis. Hundreds of species are facing risk of becoming threatened or endangered. States have determined that there are 12,000 species that are rare, declining, or vulnerable and in need of conservation, but current funding does not match the size of the problem.
AFS, the National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, and others, are working together to help avert this crisis by asking Congress to dedicate $1.3 billion annually for state fish and wildlife agencies to undertake proactive conservation efforts through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
State fish and wildlife agencies are tasked with managing our fish and wildlife, and they have shown great success in restoring species that were once on the brink of extinction. Species that are hunted or fished have dedicated funding for their conservation through license fees and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. However, the thousands of species that aren’t hunted or fished do not have a similar dedicated funding stream and they are falling through the cracks. In many cases, no action is taken until a species is officially listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Once a species reaches that point, it is much harder and more expensive to recover a species and there are regulatory hurdles that make doing business more challenging.
State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) assess the health of fish and wildlife within each state and outline the conservation actions necessary to sustain them. Collectively, these SWAPs form a nationwide strategy to prevent fish and wildlife from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act. While the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant program has been appropriated $50-100 million dollars each year to fund SWAPs, the program is funded at only a fraction of what states need to conserve these at-risk species. Annual appropriations cover only 4.65% of the necessary conservation needs. As a result, states are forced to focus only on just a very few species, with many more at risk and heading towards becoming endangered.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will direct funds to each state to safeguard fish, wildlife, and their habitats as laid out in their existing, congressionally mandated SWAPs. These plans provide accountability and oversight because states can only use these funds on work that is identified within the Action Plans. These plans must be updated every 10 years with the latest science, require public input, and are approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Conservation efforts could include reintroduction of imperiled species, conserving and restoring important habitat, fighting invasive species and disease, and more.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act implements the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. This non-partisan panel of 26 visionary leaders, representing outdoor recreation retailers and manufacturers, the energy industry, sportsmen’s groups, and other conservation organizations, was convened by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop recommendations on providing secure funding for all of our nation’s fish and wildlife. The members agreed that proactive conservation is cost effective and can save wildlife and taxpayer dollars well before listing becomes necessary. The panel reviewed many options and determined that using funding from existing revenues from the use of our non-renewable natural resources was a pragmatic and logical solution that would mutually benefit America’s industries and agencies, as well as our shared fish, wildlife, and economic heritage.
Please join us in supporting this important legislative effort by signing this letter. Stay tuned for more ways to get involved!