Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: Bill Would Boost Bird Funding

By Gustave Axelson
June 13, 2018
A Bill to Boost Bird Funding-map, , Graphic by Jillian Ditner. Source: USGS National Look at Species of Greatest Conservation Need as Reported in State Wildlife Action Plans.The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide states and territories with funding to protect over 800 bird species. Note: noncontiguous states and territories are not drawn to scale. Graphic by Jillian Ditner. Source: USGS National Look at Species of Greatest Conservation Need as Reported in State Wildlife Action Plans. Macaulay Library photos, left to right: Jim Hully, David Simpson, Russ Morgan, Steve Kolbe, Peggy Scanlan, Doug Cooper, Bryan Calk, David Gabay, Thomas Berriman, Dale Bonk, Kevin Dailey, Tanner Martin, Anne Ruben, Sherrie Quillen, Jim Easton, David True, Bente Torvund, S S Cheema, Christoph Moning, David McCorquodale, Peter Brannon. View larger image.

From the Summer 2018 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives offers a new funding stream for state wildlife programs—including efforts to help hundreds of bird species in decline that need urgent conservation action. [Update: the Senate version of this bill was introduced to the Senate on July 18, 2018.]

Dubbed the “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” (or HR 4647), the bill proposed by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Debbie Dingell of Michigan would dedicate $1.3 billion of federal energy revenues annually toward conservation in all 50 states and five territories.

Game species in the U.S. currently benefit from two revenue streams that come from hunting—the Pittman–Robertson excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition and the federal Duck Stamp program. RAWA would create the first dedicated funding stream for nongame wildlife. Without tapping into taxpayer money, RAWA funds would access a fraction of the revenues the government receives from energy and mineral leases on federal lands and waters.

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The act aims to help stem population declines for more than 12,000 species of fish and wildlife, including more than 800 birds, in an effort to keep them off the endangered species list. The idea for a new conservation funding stream tied to federal energy revenues came from a national panel of business and conservation leaders chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris and former Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal. (Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick also participated in the panel, along with executives from the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Audubon, Shell Oil Company, Hess Corporation, and Toyota.)

As of press time, the bill had received strong bipartisan support from House representatives, with 26 Republicans and 31 Democrats signing on to cosponsor HR 4647. Learn more about the bill.