The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act moved closer to passage last week when it was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The legislation, described by supporters as potentially “game changing” for fish and wildlife in America, can now be passed by the full House and Senate.
The supplemental version of the bill came out of the House Natural Resources Committee in January.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would allocate $1.3 billion a year to state fish and wildlife agencies to implement their science-based wildlife action plans and an additional $97.5 million for managers tribal fish and wildlife.
The legislation is designed to provide essential funding and proactive conservation efforts to prevent non-game species from becoming threatened or endangered. At least 15% of its funding would also be used on species already at risk.
Game species management has traditionally received strong funding through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and federal wildlife and fish restoration programs, each supported by gear excise taxes.
But non-game species have lacked substantial and dedicated funding sources.
The concept of RAWA emerged from a 2016 blue ribbon panel. Although the bills have been introduced in three previous sessions of Congress, none have advanced until this year.
The Senate version (S.2372) was presented by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri).
He joined the House bill (HR2773) introduced by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).
The Senate bill has 32 cosponsors — including 16 Republicans — and the House bill has 171 cosponsors.
Nearly 2,000 conservation groups and outdoor businesses have publicly declared their support for the bill, including the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sierra Club.
“The outdoors has once again proven to be a truly unifying force,” Heinrich said in a statement Friday.
The Senate version would provide funding from civil or criminal penalties, fines, penalties and similar federal revenues generated by violations of environmental and natural resource laws and regulations.
The House bill did not include “pay for”. The funding mechanism should be reconciled in the final legislation.
A recent national poll of 1,199 likely voters found 87% supported the bill, with just 7% opposed, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
“More than one-third of U.S. species currently face an increased risk of extinction,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The bold, bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will help the species we love from the backcountry to our backyards. If passed, it will be the most important wildlife conservation legislation since the Wildlife Act. endangered species.
Wisconsin is expected to receive $18-20 million per year from RAWA.
The MAPLand law passes: In what many conservation groups are hailing as a victory for access to public lands, the Senate on Wednesday passed the MAPLand Act, a law to modernize and improve public land agency maps.
The MAPLand law, which would invest in the digitization of maps and access to information, making it easier for anyone with a smartphone or GPS device to identify outdoor recreation opportunities and follow the rules on public lands, has been in the works for four years. It now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.
Spring audiences scheduled: The Spring 2022 Department of Natural Resources Hearings and County Meetings of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress will be held online from 7:00 p.m. Monday through 7:00 p.m. Thursday.
For the third consecutive year, contributions will be collected remotely only. In-person events were canceled during planning earlier this year due to health concerns related to COVID-19.
This year’s questionnaire contains 63 questions, including 45 from the WCC, 10 from MNR Fisheries, six from MNR Wildlife and two from members of the Natural Resources Council.
Conclaves, commonly referred to as Spring Hearings, allow the public to vote on a wide variety of topics affecting conservation and the environment in Wisconsin.
To preview questions or learn more about WCC, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.