Senate Committee Passes ‘Recovering America’s Wildlife Act’

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By Casey SillPhoto by Anna Swerczek

Bill would provide $1.39 Billion annually to conservation

In April the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) with a 15-5 bipartisan vote. With committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives having passed versions of RAWA, the bill is now closer than ever to being enacted into law. 

If passed, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide states, territories and tribes with $1.39 billion annually to restore essential habitat and implement state specific conservation strategies. Through this funding, habitat work such as Bobwhite quail habitat enhancement and restoration will accelerate like never before.
 
RAWA will significantly improve the ability of state agencies and partners like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever to implement the conservation activities these plans call for.
Every state in the U.S. has a “Wildlife Action Plan,” that acts like a blueprint for species conservation. The plans assess the health of wildlife and habitat in the state, so experts know which species are at risk, and outline steps needed to conserve those of greatest need before they become more rare and costly to protect.

RAWA will significantly improve the ability of state agencies and partners like Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever to implement the conservation activities these plans call for. If passed, it would be the first time in U.S. history that permanent, dedicated funding would be set aside to conserve at-risk species. 

The bill would also set aside dedicated wildlife conservation funding for tribal governments for the first time. Native American Tribes in the United States own or influence the management of nearly 140 million acres that provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including more than 500 species listed as threatened or endangered. For decades, tribes have been left out of the conservation funding conversation, or been forced to compete for nonrecurring and inadequate grant funding. RAWA would change that by dedicating $97.5 million to Tribal Nations. 

The bill could generate as many as 33,600 jobs nationwide in fields ranging from construction to forestry, as well as boost the country’s outdoor recreation economy.
 

Impact to the uplands

Nearly one third of America’s wildlife species are at an elevated risk of extinction, and the uplands are no different. Grassland bird species have seen precipitous declines in recent decades, with a 53 percent decline overall since 1970. The lesser prairie chicken and bobwhite quail populations are among the most heavily impacted.
 
“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will improve wildlife conservation like never before for hundreds of wildlife species.”
The bobwhite quail population has declined over 80 percent nationwide since 1970. The lesser prairie chicken population has rebounded slightly since an all time low mark in 2013, but still has historically low numbers due to loss of habitat. 

“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will improve wildlife conservation like never before for hundreds of wildlife species,” said Haley Lockard, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s senior farm bill biologist in Missouri. “With these funds, we can directly target resources toward early successional habitat through native restorations and conducting much needed management to greatly improve habitat for our beloved bobwhite quail as well as other grassland species.” 

The western landscape in particular has the potential to benefit greatly from this funding. Al Eiden, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Director of Field Operations in the west said he looks forward to the opportunities the bill will provide if it does become law. 

“I’m extremely excited about what RAWA will mean for the west,” he said. “It’ll provide new opportunities to restore habitat on both public and private lands, which will be beneficial to not only the six species of quail we have out here, but all the wildlife we care so much about.”