Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Gains Steam With Texas Co-Sponsors, Senate Bill
AUSTIN August 6, 2018 - A landmark congressional conservation proposal is gaining traction nationwide and in Texas, with more than a half dozen Texas co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R. 4647, would bring an estimated $63 million per year to Texas, part of $1.3 billion nationwide from existing energy and mineral development royalties on federal lands and waters. A companion Senate bill, S. 3223, was introduced July 17.
The proposal is backed by The Alliance for America’s Fish & Wildlife, a national grass roots coalition with a sizeable Texas chapter. Supporters include government, business, industry, education and conservation leaders united to combat the decline of native species and natural habitats, a problem that affects people and the economy as well as fish and wildlife.
Scientists estimate that one-third of America’s wildlife species are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered unless their populations and habitats are stabilized. That includes more than 1,300 nongame fish and wildlife species in Texas, including beloved icons such as the Texas horned lizard, pronghorn antelope, grassland birds like the meadowlark and many others.
A new video shows what’s at stake for Texas, including species and habitats that are now at risk and would benefit from the conservation proposal, as well as expanded outdoor recreation, education and economic benefits for people.
It currently costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year to restore threatened and endangered species, costs that could be avoided or greatly reduced if proactive conservation measures were implemented first.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would not require taxpayers or businesses to pay more, but would direct existing funds to invest in fish and wildlife conservation. The House bill includes $1.3 billion in automatically dedicated annual funding. The Senate bill uses the same funding mechanism but requires annual approval by Congress. Allocations would follow a formula based on a state’s human population size and land area. Texas would receive the maximum allowed, 5 percent, or $63 million currently. Combined with the required non-federal match of 25 percent, Texas would have almost $80 million per year for research, habitat management and protection, land acquisition, education, law enforcement, and outdoor recreation focused on Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) listed in the Texas Conservation Action Plan.
A preliminary report by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department outlines early ideas on Texas goals and objectives, and highlights examples showing how RAWA funds could be spent in Texas.
The bill is being heralded as the most important American wildlife conservation proposal since passage of two landmark federal laws, Pittman-Robertson in 1937 and Dingell-Johnson in 1950, which provided breakthrough funding for game fish and animals on the brink of extinction.
"For Texas, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would mean transformative change for people and wildlife, the kind of breakthrough that comes once in a generation," said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director.
"Passage of this bill would galvanize state efforts to conserve and restore more than 1,300 nongame fish and wildlife species of concern here in the Lone Star State. By focusing on these species and their habitats, we could keep common species common and avoid the need for endangered species listings by getting ahead of wildlife declines while there’s still time to act. That’s good for jobs and the economy as well as wildlife, which is why this plan started with buy-in from industry and business. These species and the habitats where they live are the ‘goose that lays the golden egg’ which sustain multi-billion-dollar nature tourism industries in our state, as well as clean air and water and healthy outdoor recreation. H.R. 4647 would mean millions in new grants to nonprofits, universities, landowners, local communities and others. Besides natural resource benefits, this funding would transform nature-based recreation and education opportunities for people of all ages, including children and families. It would be the greatest wildlife conservation breakthrough in decades."