Policy Column: Crossing the Finish Line: Help Pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act this Congress

Drue Banta Winters

Drue Banta Winters | AFS Policy Director. Email: [email protected]

Imagine a world where fisheries professionals have enough resources to keep fish from sliding to extinction. Sounds like a fairytale, right? Given the challenges facing fish and the hurdles of navigating big ticket legislation through Congress, I would normally agree. Yet, we’ve never been closer to making the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act a reality. Both chambers in Congress have now moved the bill through committee and we’re poised for a historic win, but it will take all of us to make this dream come true!

Over the past 5 years, AFS has been working towards passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a bill that would provide fish and wildlife biologists and managers with funding to implement state and tribal-led, science-based conservation of imperiled fish and wildlife. The legislation would direct US$1.4 billion annually to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to reverse species declines as provided for in each state’s Wildlife Action Plans.

The idea behind the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has been around for nearly 25 years, but the steep price tag and the tricky problem of how to pay for it has always bogged down the bill in Congress. Yet, the broad bipartisan coalition that has been advocating for this bill the past 5 years has finally managed to break through the gridlock. We have a real chance of passing the bill THIS Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted the bill out of the Natural Resources committee in January with a strong bipartisan vote. Yet, the key to progress was the successful Senate markup in early April that cleared the bill out of the Environment and Public Works committee following a significant compromise that provided for an additional $750 million investment in endangered species recovery. Now, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is positioned for a floor vote in both chambers. In this history of this bill, we have never come this far and it’s going to take all of us to get the bill to the finish line.

Five years ago, AFS wasn’t positioned to engage in supporting federal legislation in a meaningful way. We’ve changed that through the support and commitment of our leadership, our Chapters, and our members , and today, AFS is an important part of the coalition supporting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Through letters of support from the many of our Chapters, Capitol Hill educational briefings, meetings with House and Senate offices, calls and emails from our members to their U.S. Senators and Representatives, and building visibility and action through social media, we have helped to grow cosponsors and support for this very important legislation.

Over the next few months, AFS will be actively working to get this bill to the finish line. We will be calling on our members to engage in various ways. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, NOW is the time to get in the game and help the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act get the votes we need to get it to President Biden’s desk. Members can email me at [email protected] to learn how to get involved. This is an important moment for fish and for fisheries professionals. We can’t do this without you. Join us in making the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act a dream come true.