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MI Lawmaker Looks to Save Species Before They're Endangered

Michigan would get additional funds for wildlife management under new legislation in Congress. (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
Michigan would get additional funds for wildlife management under new legislation in Congress. (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
December 18, 2017

LANSING, Mich. — Removing recovering species from the endangered list is a great accomplishment, but preventing them from ending up there in the first place is the goal of a new bipartisan effort in Congress, spearheaded by Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell.

The Dearborn Democrat is co-sponsor of the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, introduced last week. It would provide $1.3 billion annually to states' wildlife and habitat management programs to protect at-risk species.

Dingell said more than 12,000 species of fish, wildlife and plants nationwide could benefit from the approach, which she predicts would have a major ripple effect.

"Sometimes we don't think about the importance of all of these species, and the fisheries and wildlife, to our economy in Michigan for the outdoor enjoyment of people, for the jobs that it creates, the food, and many other things,” Dingell said.

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

The measure is co-sponsored by Nebraska Republican Jeff Fortenberry. Dingell said it has the support of many energy, business and conservation leaders.

National Wildlife Federation President Collin O'Mara said acting to protect a species before it is on the endangered list makes good sense, both intrinsically and economically. He cited dwindling native bee populations as just one example.

"If pollinator populations collapse, the impacts on agriculture really just can't be overstated, because one out of every three bites of food we eat is from pollinated food,” O’Mara said. "The impacts on tourism - there's a lot fewer folks that are going to be visiting some places if there aren't birds to see, and different wildlife to enjoy."

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

More information on the bill is available at NWF.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI