The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S.B. 3223, was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday by Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), and cosponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.); Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
The bill would authorize up to $1.3 billion annually, subject to appropriations, for state fish and wildlife agencies to support the implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans or SWAPs. These plans identify species at risk of becoming threatened or endangered, known as species of greatest conservation need, and detail proactive plans to reduce population declines in an effort to prevent the need to list them under the Endangered Species Act.
The Senate version authorizes up to $1.3 billion each year, but would require an appropriation of funds on an annual basis. The House bill (H.R. 4647), introduced in December by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Debbie Dingell, (D-Mich.), provides for $1.3 billion in dedicated funding every year in to state agencies to address imperiled species. The House version of the bill is based on the 2016 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, which was composed of conservation, recreation and business leaders who determined dedicated funding was the most appropriate mechanism for keeping species off of the endangered species list.
In a statement released by The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society, Doug Austen, Executive Director of AFS, states “We are pleased that the Senate is making steps to address the serious crisis for America’s fish and wildlife, but we are concerned that the lack of dedicated funding in the Senate bill will leave states without a reliable funding stream to address at-risk species before they become endangered. The crisis calls for a change in the status quo. State Wildlife Action Plans are chronically underfunded and without a shift in the approach, many species already struggling will be on the path to extinction due to increasingly warmer temperatures, drought, poor water quality, and habitat degradation and fragmentation.”