In mid-December, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in the House, a major step forward in securing $1.3 billion annually for state fish and wildlife agencies to undertake significant, proactive conservation efforts for imperiled species. If enacted, fisheries biologists and other resource professionals will be able to address the serious peril that aquatic species face in light of habitat degradation, water quality impairment, rising temperatures and reduced water availability, and other existential threats. This bill brings with it more employment opportunities for aquatic resource professional in state agencies and in the private sector. AFS is teaming up with the National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in support of the bill. We need the help of our members!
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act presents a once in a generation opportunity to transform the way our nation funds conservation of non-game species. 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. But, they are in dire need of adequate funding prevent at-risk species from becoming endangered. 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 fish and wildlife species that aren’t hunted or fished do not have a similar dedicated funding stream.
America’s fish and wildlife are in crisis. Hundreds of species are at-risk of becoming threatened or endangered. In the last 100 years or so, more than 100 freshwater animal species have been recorded as extinct in North America. Hundreds of additional species of fishes, mollusks, crayfishes, and amphibians are considered imperiled. If models are correct, America’s freshwater ecosystems are being depleted of species as rapidly as tropical forests. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2012 concluded that since 1989, the number of extinct North American fish species has increased by 25% and up to another 86 species may disappear by 2050. With increasing temperatures and decreasing water flows, the crisis for aquatic species is even more acute.
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, but funding only covers a fraction of the need. 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. This bill would provide the funding needed to implement three quarters of every state’s action plan. Conservation efforts could include reintroduction of imperiled species, conserving and restoring important habitat, fighting invasive species and disease, and more.
Here are three ways that members can help support this important effort:
- Sign-on to this letter of support.
- Tell the story of imperiled, non-game aquatic species. We want to highlight proactive conservation success stories or stories of individual species in great need of help.
- Coordinate a field visit to highlight the successful efforts of state fish and wildlife agencies to conserve species. We need AFS chapters to assist in a field visit for a member of Congress in their own backyard. We’ll be working in tandem with our conservation partners and we’ll provide the training to do it!
Email Drue Winters to get involved.