Oregon, Washington hope for conservation funding from bill to be introduced in US Senate

Conservation groups say a bill that could bring in the most money for wildlife in 50 years is a little closer to law. The Restoring America’s Wildlife Act disappeared from the US Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works last week.

National conservation organizations need more funding for the hundreds of species the organizations are supposed to manage, conservation groups say. In recent years, an important source of funding from hunting and fishing licenses has fallen short.

Now a bill passed by Congress could provide more than $1 billion a year for government agencies and tribes to restore endangered wildlife. The fish and wildlife departments in Washington and Oregon could each receive more than $20 million a year.

“The kind of restoration work that states can do with that money is the kind of thing that’s not being done right now,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of the Conservation Northwest group.

A small dark mammal.

An archive photo of a fisherman, a member of the weasel family. Congress could help state wildlife organizations conserve more species like the fisherman.

National Park Service / National Park Service

For example, about 4% of Washington’s recovery efforts State Wildlife Action Plan, which includes 268 species, are now off the ground, Friedman said. The additional federal funding could help more government agencies prioritize wildlife recovery, he said.

Additional funding can help recovery projects such as the reintroduction of the weasel fishermen to Washington’s Cascades and the recovery of Canadian Lynx in the Kettle River RangeFriedman said. Both projects depended on a lot of private and innovative funding, he said, to remain viable.

“They’re great success stories, but if this law is passed, that kind of work could happen without having to look for money elsewhere,” Friedman said.

The goal, he said, is to keep species off the endangered species list, which he compared to an emergency room — an expensive treatment, a little late.

“We want to keep our animals out of the ’emergency room’ by investing in conservation earlier,” Friedman said.

While Congress has received several approvals for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, Zach Schwartz, Oregon program manager for Wildlands Network, said he thought the bill could become law this time.

However, lawmakers are still figuring out how to fund the bill, he said.

In Oregon, the state wildlife organization also has: was struggling with financing problemssaid Schwartz.

In 2016, a task group reported the department needed nearly $50 million a year in additional funding to expand conservation efforts. Oregon’s conservation strategy lists 294 animal species in need of protection.

In addition, wildlife faces a number of threats, Schwartz said, including climate change and urban sprawl, such as in Oregon’s Deschutes County. fastest growing region

“The more money we can spend planning and adapting to those changes, the better,” Schwartz said.

In addition, Friedman said, more recovery efforts should be made soon to protect wildlife.

“There is never a shortage of things that need to be done to secure the future of our wildlife,” Friedman said. “The best first step we can take is to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.”

Then the versions of the bill will be voted on in the US House and Senate in each chamber.

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