Restoring America’s Wildlife Act: Hope for Endangered Species

Pennsylvania would receive $22 million annually, compared to the $1.5 million in federal funding it currently collects. Delaware would receive $12 million annually, compared to the $555,081 the federal state for wildlife recently received. And New Jersey, which currently collects about $1 million annually in federal conservation grants, would receive $15 million if the legislation were passed.

In total, this would result in $14 billion in direct mandatory spending over a 10-year period. The bill’s proposers propose that the funding would come from revenue collected from enforcement actions against those who violate environmental regulations.

While the legislation would significantly increase federal conservation money, it would also distance federal involvement in conservation in favor of a state and local approach to conservation. The funding would help states establish their wildlife action plans, congressional-imposed actions that identify strategies to restore species in greatest conservation need.

Proponents of the legislation argue that existing federal funding is inadequate and does not provide the resources needed to meet the conservation needs outlined in the action plans.

Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences regularly seeks funding from groups such as the Nature Conservancy, as well as government agencies, to support its recovery and conservation work. But these institutions have limited resources, said David Keller, chief of the Fisheries Division at the Academy of Natural Sciences within the Patrick Center for Environmental Research.

“While there are many species listed among the most in need of conservation, they only have so much money – and can usually only focus on the endangered species. They don’t have too much money or time to focus on the threatened and candidate species out there,” Keller said.

“And [the legislation] would really help those agencies start focusing not just on the worst of the worst, not just the fish that are really in a bad place, but some of those fish species that they want to avoid being endangered be brought, take care not to become an endangered species.”

The legislation aims to remove species from the endangered species list by targeting funding to those species that are not yet threatened but are vulnerable.

Twelve thousand-plus species of wild animals and plants are identified as “species with greatest conservation need”. More than a third of all wildlife, fish and plant species are at increased risk of extinction from threats such as fragmented and degraded habitats, invasive species, disease, pollution, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods and hurricanes.

In September, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing 23 species from the endangered list due to extinction.

David Keller Holding an American Shad Collected on the Paulinskill River
Academy scientist David Keller holds a shad collected from the Paulinskill River, a major tributary of the Delaware River, where conservationists are working to restore the shad and river herring. (Allison Stoklosa)

“Once they’re in danger, it’s very hard to bring them back,” said Eileen Murphy, vice president of government relations at the New Jersey Audubon Society, a group campaigning against lawmakers to pass the bill. supports.

“An analogy we like to use is healthcare. You don’t want to wait until you get to the emergency room to start looking after your health. You want to take the preventative approach to avoid going to the emergency room,” Murphy said. “So what this act does is prevent species from reaching emergency aid status, which has endangered species status. Now protect them so they don’t end up on the endangered list.”

The bill would also accelerate the recovery of 1,600 species already listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

It would also provide incentives to private landowners to help conserve and restore species. Regulations would decrease as species recover and become stricter as species decline.

The legislation has 32 sponsors and co-sponsors, and is supported by more than 60 tribes and 1,500 organizations representing state fishing and wildlife agencies, sportsmen and women, conservation organizations, industry associations and companies.

While the measure has significant support, concerns have been raised that the recommended source of funding — dollars from environmental fines — may not be stable enough to support it.

In a hearing from the Committee on the Environment and Public Works last month, lawmakers, including committee chair Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, expressed the same concern.

“As drafted, the legislation identifies a source of funding that may not be reliable or not fully pay for the bill’s expenses,” Carper said. However, he added: “As our colleagues have often heard me say, things that are worth doing are worth paying for. This wildlife funding legislation is well worth it and worth paying for.”

What would the legislation do locally?

Hunter Lott, co-director of Brandywine Shad 2020 in Delaware, is one of several local conservationists who signed a letter to Carper urging him to support the legislation.

The group has been working to restore the American shad along the Brandywine River. Brandywine Shad 2020, organized in 2018 with funding from the University of Delaware, the Brandywine Conservancy and Hagley Library, has raised approximately $1.5 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the State of Delaware.

Author John McPhee called American shad “America’s founding fish.” Early writings suggest the fish were used as food for Native Americans and for European settlers in this region, before William Penn arrived in 1682, Lott said.

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