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Bill Puts Species Conservation in States' Hands Before They're Endangered

State conservation efforts in Montana have helped the Arctic grayling recover. (Mark Conlin/USFWS)
State conservation efforts in Montana have helped the Arctic grayling recover. (Mark Conlin/USFWS)
December 18, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – What if states had the resources to prevent animals from ending up on the Endangered Species list?

A bill introduced in Congress aims to do just that. Known as the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, it would fund states' wildlife management efforts before species are in dire need of help.

The co-sponsors – Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan – say about 12,000 species nationwide could benefit from this approach.

Dave Chadwick, executive director, Montana Wildlife Federation, says well funded efforts by states have brought together diverse interests in the past.

"Much of the work that's been done with state wildlife grants and that we can expect can be done with Recovering America's Wildlife funding has really been collaborative, and it's been focused on working with farmers and ranchers and other stakeholders to really do habitat work on the ground,” he points out. “And I think that that collaboration is really a win-win for everybody."

Chadwick says Montana state management plans have helped species such as the Arctic grayling and northern leopard frog.

The $1.3 billion in funding for the bill would come from an existing tax paid by energy and resource industries for the right to develop on federal lands that generates $10 billion annually.

It would raise money for Montana conservation efforts from $830,000 to nearly $29.7 million.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, maintains addressing problems before using the Endangered Species list is a smarter way to preserve wildlife.

He notes representatives from both sides of the aisle have voiced support.

"There's obviously an intrinsic value and responsibility to save these species,” he states. “But from an economic point of view, if we have a solution that's going to reduce regulatory uncertainty and really bolster the economy overall, that could be a home run."

The bill lays out a plan to provide 75 percent of the funding for preservation programs, and only requires states to pay one-quarter of the cost.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT