by John Bloomfield
In May, Travis Audubon members learned about proposed federal legislation called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773) from Rachel Rommel-Crump, State Coordinator for the Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife. The alliance is a coalition of 165 organizations and businesses backing this landmark conservation legislation.
If passed, this bipartisan bill would bring about the most significant investment in wildlife conservation in a generation. It would fund wildlife and habitat conservation in states, territories and tribal lands to address our nation’s wildlife crisis and help prevent thousands of species from becoming endangered. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) are the lead sponsors of the legislation, which could bring tens of millions of dollarsto Texas annually for conservation purposes, without the need for new taxes.
Nationwide, experts have identified more than 12,000 Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including over 1,300 in Texas. These include many grassland and coastal birds, bees, butterflies, sea turtles and freshwater species. The bill is supported by National Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation and many Texas-based conservation organizations. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is also advocating for the legislation. You can read its report here.
Currently, the United States lacks a dedicated funding stream to conserve vulnerable wildlife. Like the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act of 2020, which established a permanent revenue source for the country’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, the RAWA would provide dedicated and reliable funding for wildlife conservation initiatives. The bill would allocate $1.3 billion per year to states and $97.5 million to tribal nations from existing revenues to fund wildlife conservation, habitat management and restoration, outdoor recreation and education programs.
Of this, Texas would be eligible for more than $50 million per year to implement the Texas Conservation Action Plan and help stabilize at-risk species in our state. Texas Parks and Wildlife would administer the funding, which would support qualified projects conducted by Texas state agencies, conservation organizations, land trusts, universities, nature centers, private landowners and others.
By conserving wildlife, the legislation also benefits an important part of the Texas economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the Texas outdoor recreation economy, which includes birding and nature programs, generates 327,000 direct jobs, $14.4 billion in salaries and wages and $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.
The RAWA currently has 56 bipartisan cosponsors nationwide, including one Texan, Marc Veasey, (D-33). More than a dozen Texas legislators from both sides of the aisle supported an earlier version of the bill, including one Austin-area congressman, Lloyd Doggett (D-35). You can help further this legislation by asking your U.S. House Representative to cosponsor the bill.
To learn more about the RAWA and find information you can use to write your local member of Congress, visit the Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife website at txwildlifealliance.org.
UPDATE (7/21/21): The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate! S.2372 will provide critical investment in conservation and restoration efforts to help recover wildlife across the country. This bipartisan legislation will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and will boost the economy! Get involved at https://www.txwildlifealliance.org/take-action