From the FWP Website… Under a new piece of bipartisan legislation working its way through Congress, Montana would get a significant boost for conserving wildlife and habitat.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R.4647) was introduced this past December by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, and Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, and could provide $1.3 billion in annual funds to state wildlife agencies for conserving wildlife and habitat, increasing wildlife associated recreation opportunities, and increasing conservation education programs. Funding for the legislation would come from revenue generated by existing on and off-shore oil and gas drilling as well as other energy sources developed on federal lands and would require a 25 percent non-federal match.
At their regular meeting Thursday, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission signed a resolution endorsing the legislation. This endorsement comes on the same day the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
“Imagine a source of funding dedicated to keeping sensitive species off the Endangered Species List, or one that fosters partnerships in wildlife education that helps get kids out from behind a computer screen and into the wild, or one that helps promote the enjoyment of Montana’s abundant and accessible outdoor resources,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director Martha Williams.
The legislation is a proactive approach to addressing consistent needs wildlife management agencies across the nation are facing.
“This is an important and creative legislative initiative to protect ecosystems across our nation through constructive partnerships in states,” said Fortenberry in a statement about the act. “The bill provides smart upstream policy to avoid triggering the ‘emergency room procedures’ of the Endangered Species Act. By effectively putting preventative measures in place, we can now better protect habitat and wildlife from becoming lost or endangered in the first place. This will benefit farmers, hunters, anglers, boaters, birders, hikers and other wildlife enthusiasts, as well as the burgeoning field of eco-tourism. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will also prove to be a powerful new tool to connect resource extraction policy with prudent resource recovery.”
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the result of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, which met three times in 2015 to come up with ways to diversify wildlife management funding in America. The Blue Ribbon Panel was comprised of people representing a broad swath of interests including the energy industry, retail giants and some of the nation’s most influential conservation leaders. The panel was co-chaired by John Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and David Freudenthal, former governor of Wyoming. The group recognized the problem of too little funding for wildlife conservation and found a solution in the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
The majority of wildlife in the United States falls under management of the state wildlife agencies, like Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. These agencies are largely funded by hunter and angler dollars, collected through a variety of sources including license and user fees and federal excise taxes on hunting, angling and sporting equipment. Over the last 80 years, this money has thankfully funded the recovery of many game species across the West, including Westslope cutthroat trout, elk, and bighorn sheep, as well as nongame species such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon. In Montana, this funding also goes towards monitoring species critical to our economy, livelihood, and unique landscapes such as bats, sage grouse, and golden eagles. If approved, the $1.3 billion allocation would mean nearly $30 million new dollars each year for critical work to recover and manage even more species and habitats. Expenditure of any new funds would be guided by the State Wildlife Act Plan, direction from the citizen commission and legislative approval keeping the state accountable to its commitments to conserve all wildlife while offering recreational and educational opportunities.
Visit Montana’s Fish Wildlife and Parks website at fwp.mt.gov for more information on Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and the great work Montana has done with existing sources of funding.