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WY Wildlife Conservation Funding at Stake in New Bill

The bald eagle has been identified as one of many iconic wildlife species in need of greater protections in Wyoming. (Pixabay)
The bald eagle has been identified as one of many iconic wildlife species in need of greater protections in Wyoming. (Pixabay)
December 19, 2017

CHEYENNE Wyo. – A bipartisan bill introduced last week in the U.S. House would tap existing revenues from energy development on public lands to finance state plans to keep wildlife populations healthy and off the endangered species list.

State fish and wildlife agencies estimate nearly 12,000 species are currently at risk across the country.

Joy Bannon, the Wyoming Wildlife Federation's field director, says investing up front in conservation is the most cost-effective way to protect the state's wildlife.

"So that we're not in this emergency-room scenario, where they're going to be placed on the endangered species list for example," she says. "We want to be proactive because we feel that it's good for taxpayers, it's good for wildlife and it's good for business."

Bannon notes the number of species petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade. She says if the measure passes, Wyoming's conservation funds could increase from just over $500,000 to nearly $20 million annually, without requiring new taxes.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, points to Monarch butterfly populations, down 90 percent compared with 15 years ago - along with a 50-percent loss of native bee and honeybee populations - as big reasons to bolster conservation efforts.

O'Mara warns the impacts on agriculture if pollinator populations collapse can't be overstated since one out of every three bites of food we eat requires pollination.

"With so many things that have big price tags, as they're debating tax cuts and increases in defense spending, it's just making the case that this is worth investing in," he says. "So far, we're in the early stages, but there's been good bipartisan support on both sides saying, 'This is a better solution than the status quo.'"

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act is co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Democrat Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY