The Restoring America’s Wildlife Act would create an annual fund of more than $1.3 billion given to states, territories and tribes for conservation on the ground. While endangered species have been defined and protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1973, that act does not provide solid funding to proactively maintain their numbers.
The effort comes as scientists and international organizations loud alarm about the accelerated decline of species.
“Too many people don’t realize… that about a third of our wildlife is at an increased risk of extinction,” said lead sponsor Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, echoing a statement. recent research about climate change.
“The bottom line is that when we save wildlife, we save for ourselves,” said Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, which supports the bill. He said the loss of species threatens everything from the insects that pollinate plants in the food chain, to the marine life that protects coastlines from storm surges.
The bill would amend a 1937 law called the Pittman-Robertson Act, which was passed in response to declining species of game and waterfowl. That law allows states to tax hunting stocks to pay for the restoration of wildlife and habitats, but that money isn’t enough to do the same for non-game species, according to the law. Pew Charitable Trusts†
The law would also invest more in wildlife conservation than the existing program for endangered non-wildlife species, the State Wildlife Grant Program, which gives states a total of $56 million this year†
A major stumbling block remains: how to pay for this investment.
Supporters continue to talk out the details, while critics such as Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) called the current design “unfortunately flawed” because it would create a new permanent spending program. He called on members to vote against.
The bill would require that 15% of all conservation funds go to restoring populations of federally endangered species.
On Monday, the White House released a statement saying: “highly supports” the aims of the bill.
The accompanying legislation in the Senate has 16 GOP co-sponsors†