Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide Tennessee $20.8 million annually—nationally, $1.3 billion—to keep species from ever becoming threatened or endangered.

Currently, there isn’t steady funding to manage nongame species. Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will conserve Tennessee’s 1,400+ species in greatest need of conservation, before populations shrink and more drastic steps are needed. It’s a proactive approach that saves wildlife and saves money.

Contact your Congressman now and tell them Tennessee must have funding to manage species in need. Ask them to co-sponsor the House version of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 4647).

Proactive, Continuous Species Management

In Tennessee alone, more than 1,400 plant and animal species have been identified by the State Wildlife Action Plan of being in greatest need of conservation. More than 70 animals are federally listed as threatened and endangered species. Currently, management of nongame species doesn’t have funding that is dedicated, adequate, or recurring. This makes it nearly impossible to plan and execute the long term projects needed to improve populations.

Tennessee species at risk include the Northern Bobwhite Quail, the Chickamauga Crayfish, the Virginia Big-eared Bat, and the Red Squirrel. As these and other nongame species decline, so do a countless number of interconnected species and habitats, including game species. And by keeping species from becoming threatened or endangered now, we avoid needing to take more drastic and expensive steps later to rescue them from extinction.

Funding proactive management has proven to be more effective and cost less. Both the House and Senate bills tap oil and gas royalties on federal lands and waters for funding, creating no new taxes. The House version of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide $1.3 billion in dedicated, adequate, and recurring funding. Tennessee will receive $20.8 million of those funds each year. This enables meaningful, long term gains to be made. But the Senate bill does not guarantee recurring funding or funding at the adequate $1.3 billion level—an amount carefully determined to meet conservation needs.

Passing Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would be a once-in-a-lifetime success for wildlife conservation. More support must be secured for the House version. The Senate bill must be strengthened to better match the House’s version. And people of all walks should join the Tennessee Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife to show their support.

Get Involved

In the News

Senate’s Wildlife Act meets the challenge—almost
Knoxville News Sentinel

Quick Facts

  • Outdoor recreation generates 188,000 direct jobs in Tennessee—more than six million jobs nationally. This bill will conserve the natural resources that underpin this industry.
  • There’s no tax increase. Tennessee’s $20.8 million allocation will come from existing revenues from energy and mineral fees.
  • Collaborative and diverse funding eases the burden shouldered by sportsmen to fund more than 80 percent of state wildlife agency efforts through game and equipment taxes and fees.
  • The funds will be controlled at the local level by state fish and wildlife agencies.
  • Funds will largely be earmarked for restoring habitats, reintroducing native wildlife, fighting exotic invasive species, and monitoring emerging diseases.

More from the Federation about Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this bill necessary?

In their congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plan, state fish and wildlife agencies have identified 12,000 species in need of proactive efforts to prevent them from becoming endangered. Monarch butterflies, migratory songbirds, salamanders and turtles, and bats are among the species at-risk. Estimates of implementing two-thirds of each state’s plan is $1.3 billion each year. Current funding (about $70 million annually) is less than five percent of what is necessary to conserve the species most at-risk.

The magnitude of the solution must match the magnitude of the problem. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will fund conservation efforts for declining wildlife species before they need the emergency measures of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Once a species reaches the point of needing ESA intervention it is harder and much more expensive to recover, and it is more challenging for business. Proactive efforts provide more regulatory certainty for businesses saving them substantial money and time.

Why should this money be going to states?

State fish and wildlife agencies have jurisdiction over the majority of wildlife within their borders. In some cases, states share management responsibilities with the federal government for endangered species and migratory birds. Because states are the first line of defense for wildlife conservation efforts, their ability to proactively manage species and their habitats is essential. States are also better equipped to identify and respond to the needs of wildlife in their state, and have a proven track record of wildlife management that reaches back nearly a century. Previously, states used dedicated funding from hunting and fishing licenses, as well as excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment to restore now common species like white-tailed deer, turkey, elk, and striped bass that were on the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide funding allotments to the states through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, an already established and effective funding mechanism. The money will only be used on needs identified by each state’s existing, congressionally-mandated State Wildlife Action Plan. Those plans are regularly updated to incorporate the latest science and public input, and are approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ensuring program oversight.

Where would the money come from?

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would direct a portion of revenues from oil, gas, and mineral extraction for wildlife conservation into the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP). Half the funds ($650 million) will come from existing revenues from energy development on the outer continental shelf, and the other $650 million will come from existing revenues from mineral development on federal lands. The current revenues from these sources fluctuates based on the price of energy sources but generally ranges from $6 billion to $12 billion. Most of these funds currently go into the U.S. Treasury; a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues are directed toward the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land protection.

How do the House and Senate bills compare?

Largely, the House and Senate bills align. However, there are a few key components missing from the Senate bill.

Both versions identify a dedicated source of funding and route it to a dedicated program. They designate existing revenue from oil and gas royalties on federal lands and waters, which is reliable and requires no new taxes. But regardless of funds’ origins, having a dedicated source helps shield it from future political games.

Both versions of the Act also dedicate the funds to enable state wildlife agencies to implement their State Wildlife Action Plans, which are blueprints for conserving fish and wildlife, and other activities to help imperiled wildlife. Tennessee’s State Wildlife Action Plan identifies 1,499 plant and animal species in greatest need of conservation. These plans are proven tools for prioritizing efforts and improving species’ outlook.

But, here is where they differ—and the difference is big.  

The House bill will annually fund activities to help imperiled wildlife at $1.3 billion nationwide$20.8 million for Tennessee. This amount was determined to adequately fund the conservation needs laid out in the State Wildlife Action Plans and similar efforts.

However, the Senate bill sets the $1.3 billion only as a goal each year, not a guarantee, that would need to be reappropriated each year. Previous attempts to do the same thing have resulted in ineffective and massively underfunded policy.

Finally, the Senate bill does not provide recurring funding like the House bill does. Wildlife conservation requires methodical and sustained work. For example, habitat restoration and management are long-term propositions that take time before wildlife responds and builds up healthy populations. This work is impossible if there’s the threat that funding will spike, drop, or even disappear in coming years—regardless of the final amount.

Therefore, while similarly written, the House bill is a stronger, more sustainable solution for managing wildlife.

What is the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program?

The Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program is a permanently authorized but unfunded account under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. This program has an established infrastructure and grant management process. The program was created to support development and implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans to conserve species of greatest conservation need, particularly those without other funding sources. This program is broader in scope than the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, which is not permanently authorized.

Eligible activities under the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program include research, monitoring, habitat restoration and enhancement, land protection, planning, wildlife conservation education, and wildlife-associated recreation (recreation is capped at 10 percent). The program uses an existing formula for apportionments based two-thirds on population and one-third on land area with caps so that no more than five percent or no less than one percent of the total in any year is apportioned to a single state. The states, territories, and the District of Columbia are eligible for funding if they have an approved State Wildlife Action Plan.

Why should we fund wildlife conservation using revenues from energy development?

Energy and mineral development have a direct impact on habitat, which in turn impacts wildlife. Using funds generated through the use of non-renewable resources for conservation acknowledges that there is damage to the environment from this energy development and that it makes sense to reinvest the revenues from development for conservation efforts. Some have suggested this might be an incentive for more development since states and others would get more funding with more drilling; however funding for this program is a set amount and wouldn’t fluctuate with more development.

How does this bill compare to the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

The Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP) would create a separate but complementary program to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Both programs have similar conservation purposes; however, there are some differences as the law is currently implemented:

1) WCRP can be used for a range of actions including species reintroduction and stewardship of lands, while LWCF is primarily focused on land acquisition or easements;

2) WCRP is state based and LWCF is primarily federal based; and

3) WCRP is wildlife focused and LWCF is broader including, for example, historic, cultural, and scenic areas.

While both use similar sources of funding, LWCF is only from offshore oil and gas and WCRP is from both on and offshore oil, gas and mineral revenues. With current revenues from these sources ranging from $6 billion to $12 billion, there are enough funds available for both programs. Further, LWCF does not require a match but WCRP does, which will encourage states to invest further in wildlife conservation programs.

Will federal funds be matched with state or private funds?

As with existing Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs, states would be required to provide at least 25 percent in nonfederal matching funds. The source of match can be monetary or in-kind contributions originating from state or local governments or private entities such as conservation organizations, universities, businesses, private landowners, or volunteers. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the states are examining options to assist states who could face challenges securing sufficient match.

A dedicated fund requires an identified source of funds to provide an “offset” so there is not an increase in the overall budget. What is the offset?

There currently is no identified source of funds for an offset. As recently as last year, Congress provided an increase to the budget without identifying a source of funds. This program is essential for wildlife conservation and that political support will build, resulting in either Congress determining the best offset source or deciding it is not required. In addition, there will be savings in annual federal government spending for species listed under the Endangered Species Act due to the proactive conservation efforts the states will be able to implement.

Can this bill pass?

Yes! With your support. Both Republicans and Democrats wish to address the need for our nation to have a proactive effort to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. The strong and diverse coalition, including Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, reflects how this bill has support from sportsmen, birders, gardeners, and the businesses dependent on our nation’s lands and waters, including big and small outdoor gear retailers and manufacturers and oil/gas companies. The cost effective, state based approach is good for wildlife, good for taxpayers, and good for business.

Where did this idea come from?

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was initiated the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. Their recommendations can be seen in the panel’s final report, “The Future of America’s Fish and Wildlife.”