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Blue Ribbon Panel Recommends $1.3 Billion Investment in Conservation

Business leaders and conservation groups are pushing a strategy to combat wildlife habitat loss and species decline. (Welcomia/iStockphoto)
Business leaders and conservation groups are pushing a strategy to combat wildlife habitat loss and species decline. (Welcomia/iStockphoto)
March 4, 2016

DENVER - A task force including business and energy leaders along with conservation groups is pushing a strategy to combat wildlife habitat loss and species decline. The blue-ribbon panel's recommendations include tapping $1.3 billion in royalties from energy production on public lands to protect non-game species.

Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said the struggle to keep the greater sage-grouse off the endangered species list has shown it pays to be proactive.

"If we can get ahead of the curve on this stuff, if we can manage the whole array of species well - it's when they get into trouble that we have to spend a whole lot of money," he said. "Industry gets disrupted, and everything gets a lot more expensive to deal with, once you're in a crisis situation."

The panel warned that if action isn't taken, the list of federally threatened and endangered species could grow from nearly 1,600 today to thousands more in the future - which Fosburgh said would put up significant roadblocks to economic development.

Fosburgh noted that hunters and anglers already help subsidize management of game species through licenses and other fees. Since state fish and wildlife agencies already are being asked to do more with less, he said another source of funding is needed to protect the wildlife that draws people to the outdoors.

"We need to shine the spotlight so that everybody - you know, the people who obviously hunt and fish, we get it - but there are a lot of others that just enjoy seeing fish and wildlife and nature out there, and it doesn't come for free," he said. "We have to manage this stuff and if we don't, we're going to see it go away."

To implement the plan, Fosburgh said, it's going to take pressure from states, industry and everyone who supports wildlife to move Congress to release a portion of the $13 billion collected each year in oil and gas royalties.

The recommendations are online at fishwildlife.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO