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Policy Pulse: House Passes Critical Funding for Wildlife Conservation

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director
Outdoor America 2020 Issue 3
Bull elk in Great Smoky Mountains - credit Tim Lumley

In early July, the House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act to improve transportation and infrastructure across the nation while also smartly investing in restoration of our natural resources. The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742) was included as an amendment to address longstanding funding shortfalls for wildlife conservation in all 50 states.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) would provide $1.4 billion per year for state wildlife conservation efforts. RAWA would also direct an additional $97.5 million to tribal wildlife managers to conserve species on tribal lands and waters. The funds would come from existing revenues and would set up competitive grants requiring matching funds from state wildlife agencies to implement their wildlife action plans.

State fish and wildlife agencies have jurisdiction over most of the wildlife in America. However, the current funding model for wildlife conservation and management relies on hunting and fishing license sales, as well as excise taxes collected on the sale of equipment for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. As some of these traditional sources of funding decline, a new revenue model is needed to address serious threats that imperil fish and wildlife nationwide:

  • State agencies have identified about 12,000 species in need of proactive conservation efforts; 33 percent of all U.S. species are at risk of becoming endangered.
  • Current funding to implement state wildlife action plans is less than five percent of what experts say is needed to conserve the species most at risk.
  • Eighty percent of state wildlife agency funding comes from hunters and anglers via license sales and excise taxes on their equipment. However, all species, not just those that are pursued by hunters and anglers, must be managed with this revenue, which is declining as license sales go down.

To combat these threats, RAWA would fully fund State Wildlife Action Plans – proactive, comprehensive conservation strategies developed by state wildlife agencies to examine species health and recommend actions to conserve wildlife and vital habitat before they become rarer and more costly to protect.

RAWA ensures a modern solution to how we finance fish and wildlife conservation. This new funding model primarily draws from fees and royalties paid to develop energy on public lands, both on and offshore. It would provide states and tribes with the dedicated and consistent resources needed to implement plans that are designed to conserve all species of fish and wildlife.

A Senate companion to the bill passed by the House had not been introduced as “Outdoor America” went to print. The League will continue our efforts to see the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the president.

Stay updated about this legislation and other important bills