Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

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. Species at risk include the Northern Bobwhite Quail, the Chickamauga Crayfish, the Virginia Big-eared Bat, and the Red Squirrel.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will direct $1.3 billion annually of existing revenue from oil and gas activities on federal lands and waters to state-led efforts to protect wildlife from becoming endangered and extinct. If the bill remains as written, Tennessee will receive $20.8 million of those funds, each year.

If passed, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide funds for the proactive management of those species, so they never become endangered.

Tennessee is the nation’s most biologically diverse inland state and boasts wildlife treasures that were brought back from the brink such as black bear, deer, turkey, elk, river otter, bald eagles, brook trout, alligator gar, and many others.

However, there are many fish and wildlife species–some unique to Tennessee–that are declining and require proactive conservation and restoration measures to ensure the species survive. Factors such as habitat loss, invasive species, and disease have taken a significant toll on birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, and bees in Tennessee and across the nation.

Act Now!

To make this bill a reality, we need your help.

In Tennessee, we are building an alliance of individuals and organizations that support the passage of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and protection of non-game species, called Tennessee Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife.

To become a part of the alliance and show your support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, click here

Tennessee Wildlife Federation will keep all members of the Alliance up-to-date. Together, we can make critical funding for wildlife a reality.

Good for Wildlife, Taxpayers, and the Economy

ECONOMIC BENEFITS. 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.

SCIENCE, PUBLIC INPUT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY. U.S Fish and Wildlife Service-approved State Wildlife Action Plans incorporate the latest research, science, and public input.

TAXPAYERS. Proactive species management reduces long-term conservation and restoration costs, saving taxpayer monies.

OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS. Sustainable wildlife are central to quality viewing and recreation experiences. Additional funds also mean improved access and facilities.

LANDOWNERS. Voluntary technical- and financial-based assistance incentives ensure landowners can contribute to both the economy and conservation efforts.

Fair Funding

NO TAX INCREASE. Tennessee’s $20.8 million allocation will come from existing revenues from energy and mineral fees.

BETTER FOR HUNTERS AND ANGLERS. 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.

A PROVEN MECHANISM. The bill will allocate funds via the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration subaccount of the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Decisions at the State Level

LOCAL CONTROL. The funds will be controlled by state fish and wildlife agencies.

HELPING WILDLIFE AT RISK. Funds will largely be earmarked for restoring habitats, reintroducing native wildlife, fighting exotic invasive species, and monitoring emerging diseases.

CONNECTING PEOPLE WITH NATURE. Establishes funding for non-game species management. Portions of the funds can be used for wildlife viewing, nature photography, educational programs, and trail improvements.

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.

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.

For more information, read “The Future of America’s Fish and Wildlife” — the document that initiated the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act — put together by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. Click on the image below to open the pdf.

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