Congress is about to hit a home run for American wildlife

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Red fox kits are born small and helpless, but they grow quickly and can start exploring after about four weeks. Litters usually consist of four to six, but sometimes up to 13!

Photo credit: Brad Smith.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is currently awaiting a vote in Congress. This bill, if passed, will provide $1.4 billion in funding to support the conservation and recovery of endangered US wildlife. This represents a transformational amount of funding that can make the difference between species across the country having the habitat to thrive or being listed as threatened or endangered. $1.3 billion of this bill will go to national wildlife agencies and their state-based conservation partners. The bill specifically earmarks $97.5 million per year for tribes to advance their biodiversity goals and manage fish and wildlife on tribal lands. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will receive the essential resources it needs to implement its wildlife conservation and recovery programs. It’s fair to say that Congress will knock one out of the park for wildlife if it passes the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

Wildlife stats are grim

Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis. One million species are threatened with extinction worldwide, many of them within decades, unless measures are intentionally taken to reduce activities that lead to biodiversity loss. In the United States, more than a third of all fish and wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction. The state of American wildlife was chronicled in a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation, the American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Society. Let’s take a look at some of the sobering details:

  • Birds: Nearly 30% of all birds in North America have disappeared in the last fifty years: 22% of forest birds, 37% of shorebirds and 53% of grassland birds.
  • Pollinators: Bees and butterflies have experienced widespread declines. For example, monarch butterflies have declined by 90% over the past two decades.
  • Freshwater species: 40 percent of the country’s freshwater fish species are rare or at risk and 60 percent of the country’s freshwater mussels are at risk or vulnerable.
  • Amphibians: On average, populations of amphibians in the United States are disappearing from their known localities at a rate of four percent each year, with some of the most threatened species showing annual declines approaching 12 percent per year.

Five young green herons on a branch. Photo credit: Roy W. Lowe/USFWS.

More than 1,600 U.S. species are in such dire straits that they already enjoy Endangered Species Act protection. Sadly, the conservation window has closed for more than 150 American species that have already disappeared and the nearly 500 additional species that have not been seen for decades and are presumed extinct.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a game-changer

In the United States, states and tribes provide primary leadership in wildlife management on the ground. To improve wildlife outcomes, we must position state and tribal wildlife agencies to take proactive steps to recover our wildlife.. State agencies will use the funding to implement their state wildlife action plans – currently, those plans receive less than 5% of the funding needed for successful implementation, which is grossly insufficient to address the scale and scale of the biodiversity crisis. Tribal wildlife agencies will use the funding to help develop and protect Native American fish and wildlife resources. Historically, tribes have been excluded from conservation funding opportunities or forced to compete for inadequate grants. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a step in the right direction to address this inequity.

If passing the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was a baseball game, we’d be leading the ninth inning. The bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, passed by the respective committees responsible for the bill, and is awaiting a floor vote in both chambers. Gardeners, birdwatchers, wildlife watchers, hunters and anglers, national wildlife agencies and tribes have all spoken out on behalf of this bill and more than 1,700 businesses and organizations across the country are calling for the bill to be passed. Due to the diversity of supporters, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act enjoys bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Now we need a vote!

A crayfish can survive several days out of water thanks to its specialized gills which allow it to breathe in the air and under water.

Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS.

Don’t let Congress knock

As sports fans know, anything can happen in the final minutes of a baseball game. Likewise, anything can happen in the final months of the legislative calendar. Please act today and ask your members of Congress to support and pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. America’s wildlife at risk cannot afford to wait another year to begin their recovery.

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