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Bill Could Send $18M a Year to Nebraska for Conservation

Whooping cranes are an endangered species in Nebraska. Congress is considering funding proactive efforts to prevent species from becoming endangered. (Pixabay)
Whooping cranes are an endangered species in Nebraska. Congress is considering funding proactive efforts to prevent species from becoming endangered. (Pixabay)
July 23, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. — New legislation introduced in Congress by Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry could deliver up to $18 million annually to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to preserve wildlife.

Jim Douglas, the agency's director, said the funding would not only help protect nearly 90 imperiled species - including whooping cranes, the southern flying squirrel and black-footed ferret. He said the work also would benefit a lot of other species.

"We also want to keep common species common in Nebraska,” Douglas said. “And so this would allow work on all species, not just those that are threatened or endangered, and hopefully we can keep them from being listed as threatened and endangered, and keep common species common."

Douglas said conserving wildlife also is an investment in Nebraska. The state's outdoor recreation industry generates $2.5 billion in economic activity each year, and supports nearly 25,000 jobs. The Recovering America's Wildlife Act aims to protect more than 12,000 species nationwide in need of the greatest attention, including some 700 in Nebraska.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO with the National Wildlife Federation, said by acting earlier to ensure that species don't end up threatened or endangered, years of regulatory and litigation fights can be avoided, along with the need for "emergency room" restoration efforts down the road. He said 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,” O’Mara said. “And I think that's why we're optimistic that this legislation will pass this year."

Much of the funding in Nebraska is expected to go to landowners to help cover the costs of keeping habitat viable for wildlife. Habitat loss is widely seen as a major driver of species loss.

The bill currently has 70 co-sponsors, and must clear a vote in the Natural Resources and Budget committees to advance.

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Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE