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Policy Pulse: 2020 Wins and Our Policy Priorities for 2021

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director
Outdoor America 2021 Issue 1
Chesapeake Bay wetlands - credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Conservation Wins

In October 2020, Congress passed, and the President signed, the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act. Passage was enabled by strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

The ACE Act contains approximately a dozen provisions, including a number of priorities for the Izaak Walton League, such as:

  • Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $60 million annually for a period of five years. This program has improved more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds.

  • Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program starting at $90 million and increasing to $92 million annually for a period of five years. The Bay Program coordinates and leads clean water efforts of the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the District of Columbia to restore the health of the Bay – the nation’s largest estuary.

  • Establishing a task force within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat Chronic Wasting Disease by ensuring that state wildlife managers have coordinated plans to research, monitor and respond to it.

  • Authorizing the National Fish Habitat Partnership at $7.2 million annually for a period of five years. More than 800 habitat projects have been brought to life by this partnership so far.

  • Reauthorizing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a period of five years. This program provides grants to communities and organizations to restore habitat for fish and wildlife across the country.

As the calendar rolled into 2021, the League was already working to implement common-sense solutions for our top conservation issues. Here is a summary of the major issues you can expect the League to engage Congress and the Biden Administration on.

Securing Clean Water

Americans are facing an unprecedented rollback in clean water protections in precisely the same waters where polluted runoff is getting worse. The League will push the new administration to restore Clean Water Act protections to tributary streams and wetlands, as well as implement solutions to build soil health and keep runoff out of streams across the country. We will also work with Congress to affirm the Clean Water Act goal of permanent protections for all streams and wetlands.

Transitioning to Regenerative Agriculture

Soil health stands at the center of the Izaak Walton League’s agriculture work. Healthy soils absorb water like a sponge, reducing polluted runoff, which is the largest threat to our rivers, lakes, wetlands and estuaries. Healthy soil also can capture and store a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, so soil health practices are an important strategy for fighting climate change.

The League will continue to advance simple soil health policy solutions designed to expand the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices across farm country. That includes ideas pioneered by the League like the “good farmer discount,” which lowers crop insurance premiums for producers who adopt soil health practices, and state soil health action plans, which would provide funding for states to implement valuable conservation practices. We will continue to push Congress to codify these solutions.

We will also work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give farmers the resources they need to produce soil health plans for their farms.

Funding the Next Century of Wildlife Conservation

State wildlife management agencies have identified about 8,000 species in need of proactive conservation efforts in the U.S. In fact, studies estimate that 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. Also, up to 80 percent of state wildlife agency funding comes from hunters and anglers via license sales and excise taxes on their equipment. Non-game species must be managed with this revenue, which is declining as license sales go down.

The League will continue to pursue legislation, like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, that establishes a new model for funding wildlife conservation and keeping at-risk species from becoming threatened or endangered.

Fighting Climate Change

Climate change is a proven threat to our health, natural resources, economy and way of life. This threat grows larger as we delay steps to address it in an adequate manner, while the window to effectively do so is rapidly closing. The United States must combat climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and mitigating the effects of carbon already in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The League will pursue climate mitigation policies and emissions reductions strategies that comport with our member-adopted conservation policies. As Congress debates legislation to address climate change, we will seek solutions that increase energy efficiency, smartly develop more renewable energy sources and sequester carbon in soil, wetlands, forests and prairies.

Protecting Iconic Places

Landscapes across the country face several environmental challenges that can only be resolved with intense restoration and collaboration that results from federal prioritization. Each part of the country faces its own unique problems, but common factors are at the heart of the restoration needs in many of these places.

The League will continue to advocate for the resources necessary to restore our treasured places and prevent further degradation from development and invasive species.

We will ask Congress to fully fund restoration programs on the Missouri River and reinvigorate fish and wildlife conservation programs that have been ignored for years.

We will also work to ensure that Congress continues to make maximum funding available for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Program, two key restoration programs.

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