The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has thrown their support behind federal legislation introduced this summer that would provide a significant boost in funding to fish and wildlife conservation in Montana.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, (HR 5650) was introduced in the House in July by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D- Mich.) and it calls for dedication of $1.3 billion annually to state fish and wildlife agencies. The money would be collected from existing revenues and fees on the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters. Under the bill, the federal allocation would require a 25 percent match from each state.
“Montanans identify strongly with the outdoors and yet funding the management of our fish and wildlife resources has been narrowly focused on hunters and anglers,” said Commission chairman, Dan Vermillion. “This legislation is a great step in the right direction of providing better and more diverse funding for wildlife management.”
The commission unanimously approved the resolution at their regular August meeting. The resolution encourages the Montana congressional delegation to support the legislation and the Montana Legislature to develop a source of funding for the 25 percent state match.
The federal legislation is the result of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources comprised of a diverse group of national leaders from wildlife conservation groups, oil and gas companies and the outdoor recreation industry.
This federal effort mirrored a similar effort here in Montana. Finding Common Ground was a diverse group of constituents led by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that looked at opportunities for broadening support and funding for FWP fish and wildlife management – funding that could ultimately provide the money required to match any new funding that results from Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations. The reality both groups recognized is the vast majority of fish and wildlife in the United States falls under the management of the various state wildlife agencies, largely funded by hunter and angler dollars.
During the past 80 years, this money has funded the recovery of many wildlife species across the West including westslope cutthroat trout, Rocky Mountain elk and bighorn sheep. But state wildlife agencies, including FWP, are mandated to manage all wildlife species. Therefore hunter and angler dollars also go toward efforts at keeping species off the endangered species list like sage grouse, golden eagles, and even frogs.
“Our hunters and anglers are proud of the conservation work their dollars have funded over the decades,” said FWP director Jeff Hagener. “Our state is a wildlife Mecca for the rest of the country and the world because of Montana’s approach to wildlife management and historical dedication of sportsmen and sportswomen to the conservation of our wildlife resources. New funding from this legislation would provide a way to consistently pay for important proactive wildlife management for all species. We can spend money more efficiently by keeping wildlife populations healthy, before they decline to the point they’re listed on the Endangered Species List.”
If approved, the $1.3 billion annual allocation would bring about $23 million into Montana specifically for the management of species and habitats of concern.