An Ounce of Prevention: League Supports Plan to Conserve Species Before They Become Endangered

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director
Pronghorn antelope

What is the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act?

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA) would provide $1.3 billion per year to state wildlife conservation efforts. Under this Act, fees that energy and mineral extraction companies already pay to be allowed to operate on federal lands and waters would be put in an account called the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Fund (WCRF). The money in that account would then be used to fund wildlife conservation programs. This means that no tax increase is necessary to implement this legislation.

The Act would set up a competitive grants process, in which state wildlife agencies must put up matching funds in order to receive federal funding to implement their wildlife action plans. Each state has already created a wildlife action plan in which agency experts:

  • comprehensively assessed the health of a wide array of fish and wildlife species – not only game populations
  • identified species that are most in decline
  • developed strategies to conserve and restore the most at-risk species.

The action plans provide detailed road maps to conserve the broad diversity of fish and wildlife present in our states, and reduce the risk that some species will become so imperiled they need to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.   

Why is this legislation important?

State fish and wildlife agencies have jurisdiction over the majority of wildlife within their state's borders. However, the current funding model for wildlife conservation and management relies on proceeds raised from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, as well as excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting, fishing, and other sporting equipment. This model has worked well in the past. But now, a new model of funding is needed to address new challenges.

  • State agencies have identified about 8,000 species in need of proactive conservation efforts in the U.S. In fact, it is estimated that 33% of all U.S. species are at risk of becoming endangered.
  • The funding currently available to implement state wildlife action plans is less than 5% of what experts say is needed to conserve the species most at risk.
  • Up to 80% of state wildlife agency funding comes from hunters and anglers, via license sales and excise taxes on their equipment. This revenue must pay for the management of non-game as well as game species. But as license sales decline, this pot of money is not large enough to cover everything it is supposed to pay for.

Does this legislation replace the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

No. The WCRF would not replace or compete with the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). While both would be funded from energy and mineral extraction royalties, the $6-12 billion collected annually from this existing tax is more than enough to fully fund both programs. The WCRF would complement the LWCF, since it could be used for a range of conservation and restoration actions, while LWCF funds can only be used to acquire land and easements. Additionally, the WCRF would be state-focused, and would require states to provide matching funds – a strategy that would encourage states to be fully invested in their wildlife conservation plans.

The League supports federal legislation to ensure that state wildlife agencies have the resources they need to protect all species of wildlife. We support RAWA.