Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would help keep Washington wild

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would help keep Washington wild

Conservation Northwest / Apr 10, 2018 / Legislation, Restoring Wildlife

We’re working with the National Wildlife Federation and elected leaders to support HR 4647, which would provide funding our wildlife need.

Washington is home to an inspiring array of wildlife species, both large and small. And restoring and conserving native animals from wolves and wolverines to fishers and mountain caribou is at the core of Conservation Northwest’s mission.

Sadly, too many of our state’s species, 268 according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan, need conservation intervention to keep them from becoming critically imperiled or to reach recovery. Like many others across the nation, our state is woefully underfunded to accomplish all of the work that needs to be done.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would help Washington state efforts to recover wildlife like fishers. Photo: Paul Bannick

There is however good news. Congress has reintroduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), House Resolution 4647, to substantially increase funding to states to reverse the decline of our wildlife heritage. While “game” wildlife species typically have permanent funding sources to support their management, the rest of the nation’s biodiversity is chronically underfunded. This is particularly true of programs to recover animal species before they are listed as Threatened or Endangered, when expensive federal recovery measures kick in.

Similar to the widely-successful Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), RAWA would use federal revenues already accrued from regulated natural resource extraction to permanently direct $1.3 billion a year nationally to state programs to proactively recover fish and wildlife. Under the legislation’s allocation formula, $26 million would go to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore key ecosystems and species (see the state by state breakdown here).

“This is money well invested,” says Paula Swedeen, Ph.D., Conservation Northwest’s Policy Director. “It is vastly more efficient to conserve and restore wildlife before they decline to such low levels that they need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

The additional good news is that when targeted programs are put on the ground, species declines can be reversed. Our partners at the National Wildlife Federation recently released a comprehensive review of both our national wildlife crisis and the science documenting the effectiveness of real, practical solutions. Our work reintroducing fishers and supporting the natural recolonization of wolves and wolverines provide inspiring examples in our own backyards.

While it’s easy to get depressed by the gloom and doom that often exists around the environment today, we actually have proven means to ensure our natural heritage stays intact for future generations. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would enable more of those successes.

Sharp-tailed grouse are urgently in need of state recovery efforts. Photo: HStiver

“There is so much more that new funding would help us do in collaboration with our state and federal agency partners,” says Swedeen. “In Washington, restoring shrub-steppe habitat for sharp-tail grouse and pygmy rabbits, continuing fisher reintroduction in the North Cascades and augmenting struggling lynx populations in the Kettle Range, and restoring large tree forest habitats for flammulated owls, Pacific marten and Townsend big-eared bats, to name a few.”

Helping pass comprehensive and permanent funding for non-game wildlife species is a high priority for Conservation Northwest. We applaud Congresswoman Suzan DelBene’s leadership in co-sponsoring the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and are working to secure more co-sponsorships from our congressional delegation.

We’re hopeful that Congressman Dave Reichert of King, Pierce, Kittitas and Chelan counties will soon co-sponsor HR 4647. Those in his district can contact him and urge him to support our natural heritage through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act using this contact form!

Our Executive Director Mitch Friedman and Policy Director Paula Swedeen will be joining National Wildlife Federation affiliates from around the country to lobby in Washington, D.C. in June for RAWA. We’ll share more on this monumental legislation as it moves through Congress!

More details on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act are available from the National Wildlife Federation and in this July 2015 blog post.