Restoring America’s Wildlife Act: Hope for Endangered Species

Pennsylvania will receive $22 million annually, compared to the $1.5 million in federal funding it currently collects. Delaware will get $12 million annually, compared to the $555,081 federal wildlife grant it recently received. New Jersey, which currently collects about $1 million annually in federal wildlife conservation grants, will receive $15 million if the legislation is passed.

Altogether, this will result in $14 billion in direct mandatory spending over 10 years. Sponsors of the bill suggest that funding come from revenue collected in enforcement actions against those who violate environmental regulations.

Although the legislation would significantly bolster federal funds for wildlife conservation, it would remove federal involvement in wildlife management in favor of state and local approaches to conservation. The funding will help states enact their own Wildlife Action Plans, congressional-mandated actions that outline strategies to restore the species most in need of conservation.

Supporters of the legislation argue that current federal funding is insufficient and fails to provide the resources needed to meet the conservation needs identified in the action plans.

Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences regularly seeks funding from groups such as the Nature Conservancy, as well as state agencies, to support restoration and conservation work. These institutions have limited funds, said David Keeler, head of the fisheries division of the Academy of Natural Sciences within the Patrick Center for Environmental Research.

“Although there are many species listed among the species most in need of conservation, they only have a lot of funding — and can usually only focus on endangered species. They don’t have a lot of funding available or time to focus on threatened and candidate species,” said Keeler. are there.”

“And the [the legislation] It’s going to go a really long way in allowing those agencies to start focusing on not just the worst of the worst, not just the fish that are already in a bad situation, but also some of the fish species that they want to avoid from becoming extinct, avoiding becoming a threatened species.”

The legislation aims to keep the species off the Endangered Species Act’s list by focusing funding on species that are not yet endangered, but are endangered.

More than twelve thousand species of wildlife and plants have been identified as ‘species of greatest conservation need’. More than a third of all wildlife, fish and plant species face an increased risk of extinction due to threats such as fragmented and degraded habitats, invasive species, disease, pollution, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods and hurricanes.

In September, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing 23 species from the Endangered Species Act list due to extinction.

David Keeler carrying an American shad collected on the Paulinskel River
Academy scientist David Keeler holds an American shad collected on the Paulinskill River, a large tributary of the Delaware River where conservationists work to restore the American Shad and the Hering River. (Alison Stoklusa)

“Once they’re in danger, it’s really hard to bring them back,” said Eileen Murphy, vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Audubon Society, a group that campaigns for lawmakers to support the bill.

“The measurement we like to use is the health care system. You don’t want to wait until you are in the emergency room to start taking care of your health. You want to do the preventative approach to keep you from going to the emergency room,” Murphy said. “So what this act does is prevent the species from reaching emergency room status, which is in an endangered situation. Protect them now so they are not listed as endangered.”

The bill would also speed up the recovery of 1,600 species already listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

It will also provide incentives for private land owners to help conserve and restore the species. Regulations will reduce as species recover, and tighten as species decline.

The legislation has 32 sponsors and participants, and is supported by more than 60 tribes and 1,500 organizations representing state fish and wildlife agencies, athletes and women, conservation groups, industry associations and businesses.

Although the measure has significant support, concerns have been raised that the recommended source of funding – dollars in environmental sanctions – may not be stable enough to support it.

At a Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing last month, lawmakers, including the committee’s chair, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, expressed the same concern.

“As worded, the legislation identifies a source of funding that may not be reliable or fully paid for spending the bill,” Karber said. But he added, “As colleagues have often heard me, things that are worth having are worth paying for. This wildlife financing legislation is definitely worth paying for.”

What will the legislation do locally?

Hunter Lott, co-director of Brandywine Shad 2020 in Delaware, is one of several local conservationists who have signed a letter to Carper urging him to support the legislation.

The group is working to restore American shad along the Brandywine River. Organized in 2018 with financial support from the University of Delaware, Brandywine Conservancy, and Hagley Library, Brandywine Shad 2020 has raised approximately $1.5 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the State of Delaware.

Author John McPhee has called American shad “America’s founding fish.” Lotte said that early writings indicate that fish were used as food by Native Americans and European settlers in this area prior to the arrival of William Penn in 1682.