Restoring US wildlife law will secure a future for birds at risk

The great gray owl is a species with the greatest conservation needs in AK, CA, ID, OR, WA and WY based on warming climate projections and logging practices that eliminate large diameter trees needed at nesting. This adult was spotted on the Idaho-Montana divide at 8,500 feet.

The fate of one of the most important wildlife conservation bills you’ve never heard of awaits a vote in the Senate. I hope you, esteemed Choruser, help get this bill across the finish line.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) (HR 2773; S. 2372) will provide $1.39 billion in dedicated annual funding to states, tribes, territories and community organizations to stabilize and recover declining species and the ecosystems that support them. No hyperbole – this is historic, once-in-a-generation legislation that accelerates our nation’s investment in its biodiversity and protects endangered species from further decline.

Many crises are brewing in our country, but one crisis that always seems subservient in the media, in State of the Union addresses, in party platforms, or in national dialogue is the looming wildlife crisis. in the USA. The sad reality is that many American wildlife species are in serious decline.

…up to one-third of the more than 200,000 wildlife and plant species in the United States are vulnerable, with one in five endangered and at high risk of extinction.

…state wildlife action plans have collectively identified nearly 12,000 species nationwide that require conservation attention and action.

Reverse America’s Wildlife Crisis (National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society)

Freshwater fish and mussels, amphibians, bats, pollinators and our passion at Dawn Chorus have been particularly affected — birds. Let’s not forget, a study 2019 estimates a loss of nearly 3 billion breeding adult birds in the United States and Canada since 1970.

Why is RAWA funding necessary?

Majestic Sandhill Cranes are a species most in need of conservation in ID, IL, IN, KY, NE and OH.

For starters, state fish and wildlife agencies derive most of their revenue from hunting and fishing licenses/tags and a complementary federal correspondence source (Pittman-Robinson & Dingell-Johnson). These funds cannot be spent on “non-game” species, such as songbirds, raptors, amphibians, reptiles, bats or invertebrates.

The federal State & Tribal Wildlife Grants program currently available to states to implement their State Wildlife Action Plans allocates approximately $50-65 million per year, divided among 50 states and 14 territories. This annual distribution is estimated to be less than five percent of what is needed to conserve the 12,000 species nationally identified as Species in greatest need of conservation. Insufficient funding means that states must focus on just a few species, while others become more at risk. With biodiversity loss accelerating, a new, more equitable and proactive funding model is needed.

How would that work?

CA, IL, IN, MI, MN and WI are states that recognize the Yellow-headed Blackbird as a species in greatest need of conservation.

Recovery work funded by RAWA will be guided by National Wildlife Action Plans, which are state plans identifying recovery actions for species in greatest need of conservation. Funding allocations will be based on a formula that takes into account the size of a state’s population and land area. For example, the annual allocations would be: Alaska = $57.4M, Arizona = $31M, Michigan = $28M, New Hampshire = $11M, and Texas = $57M. RAWA funds will require a 25% non-federal match, which can be leveraged by state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations, and in-kind services.

Funds can be used for wildlife research and monitoring; habitat restoration on the ground; wildlife education and recreation supporting species conservation; control of invasive species, pathogens and diseases threatening species at risk; voluntary conservation on private land; law enforcement to protect wildlife at risk; and other related projects and programs.

Funding for RAWA will come from existing revenues the government receives from leasing energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters.

Tribal nations would receive $97.5 million a year to work on endangered species recovery on approximately 140 million acres of land.

Other Layered Benefits of RAWA

  • RAWA promotes cost-effective, proactive, voluntary and non-regulatory conservation.
  • RAWA is expected to create over 30,000 jobs and generate over $93 billion in total economic activity.
  • RAWA transcends political boundaries and brings diverse stakeholders to the table to develop collaborative conservation solutions.
  • RAWA engages and incentivizes industry and private landowners to restore and enhance critical habitat.

RAWA passed the House on June 14, 2022 on a vote of 231-190. Prospects for passage to the Senate seem good; S. 2372 garnered rare bipartisan support, with 16 Republicans signed on as co-sponsors (hoping Republican senators don’t hold this bill hostage as political vendetta for the Schumer-Manchin climate bill, as they dishonourably did with the PACT Act).

RAWA has also gained strong support from a wide range of commercial, conservation and government interests. listed here.

The Common Nighthawk is no longer “common”, probably due to chemical control of insect populations. It is listed as a species in greatest need of conservation in 27 states stretching from Oregon to Florida.

My reasons for supporting RAWA

Harlequin ducks face multiple threats from human disturbance, altered stream flow, exposure to pollutants, and climate change. They are a species most in need of conservation in CA, ID, ME, MA, MT, NY, OR, RI, WA and WY.

I spent the better part of three decades working as a field biologist for the state fish and wildlife agencies of Oregon and Idaho, including being part of the team that developed the first and second iterations of the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan. I am deeply invested in this pending legislation because the wildlife diversity and no-game programs of these and other state fish and wildlife agencies have been starved of funding for far too long! Consider that the Idaho Fish & Game Wildlife Diversity Program works to protect nearly 10,000 species (~98% of Idaho’s native biodiversity), yet the program receives less than 3% of the total budget of Fish & Game!

My ridiculously spartan annual budget only allowed for the “triage” of conservation priorities, which meant that dozens of vulnerable species did not receive the conservation attention they urgently needed and deserved. But an injection of $16.5 million a year into the current $2 million a year budget for Idaho’s Wildlife Diversity Program is a massive game changer! Extended to all 50 states and 14 territories, this level of investment will enable the recovery of thousands of species at risk.

RAWA funds can be used to develop interpretive panels highlighting the conservation of species at risk and their habitats. This sign in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley informs visitors about nesting sandhill cranes.
Short-eared Owl1720.JPG
Short-eared owls require large, open, undisturbed grasslands for breeding and nesting, a habitat under enormous pressure for development. Thirty-seven states have designated this magnificent owl as a species most needed for conservation.

Check your State Action Plan for Wildlife in this link to see wildlife designated as “Species in Need of Conservation” that are set to benefit from RAWA.

The loss and fragmentation of forested wetlands in the eastern United States and of mangroves on its wintering grounds has justified the status of species in greatest need of conservation for the prothonotary warbler in 26 states.

If you’re so inclined (oh, please be inclined!), call, email, or write your U.S. senators and ask them to support S. 2372. If your senator has already co-sponsored the bill, consider calling their office to thank them (especially senators Republicans)! Contact the US Senate

Thank you Chorusers for satisfying my podium and advocating for action

Now your turn !

Which bird among the species most in need of conservation in your state is your favorite or the one you would like to add to your life list?

Please share what flies, perches, swims, poses, sings, nests, feeds, hides, migrates, molts, hides, etc. in your home!


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