RAWA on the way to the finish line

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Efforts that would be funded by RAWA’s passage would benefit threatened and endangered species as well as popular game birds and huntable big game. Photo NDWF.

By John Bradley

The warning signs are there for American wildlife and if you listen carefully you can hear the alarm bells ringing.

Nationwide, more than a third of wildlife species are at heightened risk of extinction. Here in North Dakota, the Game & Fish Department (NDG&F) has identified 115 species of conservation priority, including our state bird, meadow meadowlark, sharp-tailed grouse, and sage-grouse, foxes and river otters, as well as a multitude of grasslands. birds, insects and pollinators.

The main reason for these population declines is no secret. Anyone who goes into the fields can see that habitat is being lost at an alarming rate. Grassland conversion, wetland destruction and urban development have degraded habitat and disrupted wildlife migration. The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report that shows game species nationwide have lost 6.5 million acres of vital habitat over the past two decades. In fact, more than a third of US wildlife faces some degree of risk of extinction. The good news is that Congress is able to pass a bipartisan solution as important as the issues facing wildlife.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), which was passed by a Senate and House committee with strong bipartisan support, would commit $1.4 billion to locally-led efforts to help fish and wildlife species in decline. All without raising our taxes. The bill would send more than $14.1 million a year to NDG&F, which will use the money to help the state’s endangered wildlife, including pallid sturgeon, bighorn sheep and pintail. . The bill will also provide funding to federally recognized tribes in North Dakota so they can scale up their work to help endangered wildlife on tribal lands.

More than a third of members of the House and Senate have already signed the bill. With strong support from both sides of the aisle, he has a good chance of being adopted – we just need to make sure he has time to vote. This bill should appeal to the entire North Dakota congressional delegation – Senators Hoeven and Cramer, and Representative Armstrong. First and foremost, the bill would not increase your taxes, but it would do wonders to prevent the decline of endangered fish and wildlife species. This means more pollinators in our agricultural fields, more fish in our rivers, more birds in our skies, and more happy landowners and sportsmen. It’s hard to argue with that.

RAWA is also incredibly cost effective. In fact, it would save money in the long run by preventing species from declining to the point of qualifying for a federal endangered species (ESA) list. Avoiding ESA listings is essential to keeping our economy and agricultural way of life intact. An ounce of prevention is better than cure. The bill would also help the economy. On the one hand, the bill would help NDG&F invest in voluntary habitat restoration on private land by farmers, ranchers and other interested landowners; providing them with additional money to help implement grazing systems, improve soil health, and implement other conservation practices that benefit their bottom line and wildlife.

Finally, the bill would also be a blessing for hunters and anglers. To help at-risk songbirds, pollinators, insects and amphibians, the bill will fund efforts to improve the health of North Dakota’s wetland and grassland habitats. Our game species such as deer, sharp-tailed grouse, ducks and pheasants, as well as our favorite game fish will also enjoy these restored habitats. That is why all the major game and fish conservation organizations in the country support this bill. More game to hunt, more fish to catch, more birds to watch, and more places to hike, hunt, trap, and camp. This would benefit North Dakota’s $1.1 billion outdoor recreation economy while making our state an even better place to raise our children and grandchildren. It is time for this common-sense, cost-effective, bipartisan bill to cross the finish line.

John Bradley is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributor and the executive director of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation.

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