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Bipartisan Bill Could Reduce Cost to Protect Threatened Species

Trumpeter swan populations are in decline in South Dakota, according to the state. (Cecil Sanders/Flickr)
Trumpeter swan populations are in decline in South Dakota, according to the state. (Cecil Sanders/Flickr)
December 18, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – 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.

Chris Hesla, executive director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, likes the idea.

"What this would do is, it would see a species in danger and then, would help provide money to go in and help its habitats, and hopefully turn it around so it wouldn't become endangered or threatened,” he states. “It would protect landowners, it protects the public and it also protects the wildlife."

Hesla says South Dakota has recognized more than 100 species with declining populations.

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 South Dakota's conservation efforts from $480,000 to more than $16 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 - SD