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Wildlife Bill Gets Bipartisan Support

Rising sea levels could drive the saltmarsh sparrow to extinction within 50 years. (CT Audubon Society)
Rising sea levels could drive the saltmarsh sparrow to extinction within 50 years. (CT Audubon Society)
July 16, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. — A new bill in Congress would bring millions of dollars to help at-risk wildlife in Connecticut.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act, introduced with bipartisan support in the House last Friday, would send $1.3 billion of general revenue each year to states for implementation of Wildlife Action Plans. For Connecticut, that could mean about $12.5 million per year to help at-risk bird species and other wildlife.

Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society, called it the most important legislative initiative he's seen in his 30 years as a conservationist.

"It would provide a steady and increased source of funding for wildlife conservation, wildlife research, wildlife habitat management, even education related to wildlife,” Comins said.

Comins said populations of many bird species are declining and are now vulnerable, including federally threatened piping plovers, blue-winged warblers and Connecticut's most endangered bird, the saltmarsh sparrow.

"It's a small bird that lives near the coastal marshes, and it actually nests right on the ground in the higher portions of the marshes,” he said. “And so, it's actually been having some serious problems with even small levels of sea level rise."

Experts say rising sea levels have put saltmarsh sparrows on a path to extinction within the next 50 years.

A bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund now is pending in the Senate. Comins said passing that bill and the Recovering America's Wildlife Act would be the biggest news for wildlife conservation in living memory.

"With Land and Water Conservation Fund, we could protect critical habitat. And then with the Recovering America's Wildlife Act we could appropriately manage them and also better understand what the areas that are most important to protect are,” he said.

He added wildlife conservation benefits all Americans and is an issue that should transcend partisan divisions.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT