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House Bill Could Be "Watershed Moment" for Wildlife Conservation

Oregon's state bird, the western meadowlark, is considered a sensitive species that would benefit from proactive conservation efforts. (Becky Matsubara/Flickr)
Oregon's state bird, the western meadowlark, is considered a sensitive species that would benefit from proactive conservation efforts. (Becky Matsubara/Flickr)
July 22, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – A bill in Congress would aid states in their efforts to conserve species before they are in crisis.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act would fund states' proactive management work to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered.

State Wildlife Action Plans across the country identify more than 12,000 species in need of the greatest attention, including nearly 300 in Oregon.

Curt Melcher, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, says the bill would provide unprecedented support for wildlife.

"Twenty-two million dollars per year – that, not just in my career, but literally in the last century – is a watershed moment as it relates to wildlife conservation," he states.

The bill would direct $1.3 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies' conservation plans.

Melcher says there are hundreds of private landowners ready to work with his agency on saving at-risk species.

The bill also would direct nearly $100 million to tribal nations for their conservation efforts.

The House bill has 70 cosponsors so far, including four members from Oregon.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says the bill is getting bipartisan support.

"At a time when Washington is pretty divided and folks can't seem to agree about anything, there does seem to be an agreement that wildlife is something that can transcend the partisan gridlock that's afflicting so many other issues right now in this country, and I think that's why we're optimistic that this legislation will pass this year," he points out.

The Oregon Conservation Strategy has identified species, including the kit fox, wolverine, killer whale and the state bird western meadowlark as species with small or declining populations and the greatest conservation needs.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR