We are the midst of an extinction crisis, with one million species facing extinction, many within decades.
Fortunately, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (“RAWA”), which was reintroduced by Reps. Dingell and Fortenberry today, aims to alleviate this disaster by providing states and Tribes with funds to protect species before they reach the brink of extinction and recover species currently listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) (along with candidate species, species proposed for listing, and species petitioned for listing).
State fish and wildlife agencies have identified more than 12,000 species in desperate need of proactive conservation efforts in the United States, including more than 1,600 U.S. species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. These include birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, bumblebees, bats, and freshwater mussels.
Some of the bill’s benefits include:
- Funding to states - The bill provides $1.3 billion dollars per year in permanent, dedicated funding to states and territories for species conservation and recovery efforts, ensuring that states with greater conservation needs receive more funding. The bill also prioritizes projects that serve disadvantaged communities. For example, states can use the funding for wildlife conservation education and wildlife-associated recreation projects, especially in “historically underserved communities.”
- Funding to Tribes - The bill, which enjoys broad Tribal support, also provides a transformative amount of funding ($97.5 million per year) to Tribes to conserve fish and wildlife on Tribal lands. Tribes have long been excluded from traditional sources of funding for wildlife management and this bill helps correct this injustice.
- Funding for Endangered Species - The bill ensures that at least 15% of funds going to states (and some of the funds going to Tribes) are used to recover species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA. There are more than 1,600 U.S. species listed under the ESA, and this bill will deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to their recovery each year.
- Funding for plants - The bill also encourages states to protect plants by providing them with additional funding if they include plants in their state conservation plans. At potentially $55 million a year, this will be the largest plant conservation program in history.
The bottom line is that this bill will get desperately needed resources to states and Tribes to help protect threatened and endangered species, in addition to ensuring more species do not get added to that list.