Federal funds on the way for endangered species in New Mexico

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A bill to support some of America’s most endangered plant and animal species passed a Senate committee last week after being introduced by U.S. Sen. from New Mexico Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was also sponsored by US Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and was passed April 7 by the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

It was introduced in July 2021 and awarded to the committee in January.

The legislation would fund about $1.3 billion a year for species conservation, enough to support 12,000 species nationwide, Heinrich said.

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Another $97.5 million in annual dollars would go to Indigenous nations for similar work, covering about 140 million acres of land.

The bill would also require species recovery efforts to be led by state agencies through state wildlife action plans approved by Congress.

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In New Mexico, that means funding for animals like the endangered Texas horned mussel, or potentially the little prairie chicken for which a listing decision was expected this year.

Records show that New Mexico has 116 species listed for state protection, including more than 70 federally listed.

New Mexico has about 4,500 native species, the fourth largest among US states.

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Heinrich said the bill would speed recovery efforts for 1,600 species already listed as endangered or threatened — statuses that grant federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

It would also direct any fines paid for violations of environmental laws to support the bill’s provisions.

An equivalent bill was sponsored by U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in the U.S. House of Representatives and passed the House Committee on Natural Resources in January.

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When the law passed recently, Heinrich said it had bipartisan support and he hoped it would be passed by the full Senate in the coming months and signed into law.

US Senator Martin Heinrich

“Without sufficient resources, state and tribal wildlife agencies have been forced to choose which species are worth saving,” Heinrich said.

“Instead of doing the proactive work needed to maintain healthy wildlife populations, they’ve been forced to use reactive measures to save species after they’ve been listed as threatened or endangered. “

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He said the federal government has so far lacked sufficient funds to protect endangered or threatened species in New Mexico and the United States.

“We urgently need to change this paradigm and save thousands of species with a solution that is up to the challenge,” Heinrich said. “The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act offers us a constructive way forward.”

Blunt said conserving species and habitats could support industries like hunting and fishing, and the bill would encourage states and Indigenous organizations to take the lead in those activities.

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“Protecting habitats and wildlife isn’t just important to states like Missouri – with some of the best hunting, fishing and outdoor activities in the country – it’s important to communities across the country. “, Blunt said.

“By encouraging states, territories and tribes to make meaningful contributions to voluntary conservation efforts, we can preserve our nation’s wildlife for future generations.”

The legislation has been widely supported by conservation groups in New Mexico and across the United States.

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A jaguar is depicted.  Conservationists want to reintroduce the endangered species to an area in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said funding for the bill would support multiple species across the state.

“This bill will transform wildlife conservation in New Mexico, protecting our unique species, from the Gila monster to the bighorn sheep,” Deubel said. “We are grateful to Senator Heinrich for leading the way across the aisle, demonstrating that conservation is a core value for all Americans.”

Collin O’Mara, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said the bill was the “most significant” conservation legislation in 50 years, saying a third of wildlife species in the United States were at “increased risk “of extinction.

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“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the most important wildlife conservation bill in half a century – and today’s strong bipartisan vote brings it one step closer to becoming law,” O’ said. Mara.

“With more than a third of all wildlife in the United States at heightened risk of extinction, we are extremely grateful to all Republicans, Democrats and Independents working together to advance this landmark legislation that aligns with the scale of the wildlife crisis in the United States.”

Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico recently received its own conservation funding through a $250,400 grant from the Western Big Game Corridor Habitat Improvement and Connectivity Program. US Department of the Interior habitat.

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Recipient provided $250,400 in matching funds for total funding of $500,800 for a project to improve Bobcat Ranch, an approximately 247-acre big game corridor in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for mule deer and elk .

The project will seek to improve the region’s climate resilience through forest thinning, prescribed burns and reseeding of native vegetation to connect three existing meadows on the land.

“Improving wildlife migration corridors and habitat connectivity is a top conservation priority, and we are committed to cultivating strong partnerships and providing the resources and tools needed to sustain wildlife populations. healthy wild animals across the country,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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