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.