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Conservation groups push for federal wildlife recovery act

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Painted Bunting is one of many species that would benefit from the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Photo by Steve Rushing

More than 1,700 organizations and businesses, including large and small bird-conservation groups, are calling on Congress to pass the $1.4 billion Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which is being considered in both the House and Senate.

In April, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s 15-5 bipartisan vote to advance the act brought it one step closer to becoming law. The bill has broad support in both parties (yes, really) and could come up for a vote in the next few weeks, possibly before Memorial Day. 

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the most significant wildlife-conservation bill in half a century,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “With more than one-third of all wildlife species in the United States at heightened risk of extinction, we are incredibly grateful for all of the Republicans, Democrats, and independents working together to advance this historic legislation that matches the magnitude of America’s wildlife crisis. Thank you to Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito, the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and original co-sponsors Senator Heinrich and Senator Blunt for advancing this legislation to the floor.”

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would:

  • Invest $1.4 billion in dedicated annual funding for proactive, collaborative efforts by the states, Tribes, and territories to recover at-risk wildlife species 
  • Focus efforts on the 12,000 species of wildlife and plants, identified by state, Tribal, and territorial wildlife managers, in need of conservation assistance in their federally approved State Wildlife Action Plans
  • Devote $97.5 million each year to Tribal nations’ proactive wildlife conservation efforts on tens of millions of acres of land
  • Provide a one-time investment in funding that will focus specifically on addressing the backlog of endangered species recovery work
  • Spend at least 15 percent of the resources on recovering threatened and endangered species

The law would fund desperately need conservation work that have been identified in State Action Plans. According to the National Wildlife Federation, a few focused on birds include: 

  • Painted Bunting (Oklahoma): The Painted Bunting nests in the coastal Southeast and south-central U.S. and often visits feeders—but this brilliantly colored songbird suffers from the destruction of swampy thickets and woodland edges for urban development. Oklahoma is fortunate to have a robust population in the Cross Timbers region. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will assure that biologists and foresters will continue efforts to conserve and improve oak woodland habitat on state and private land—benefiting Painted Bunting and a variety of other species in southern Oklahoma.
  • Golden-winged Warbler (West Virginia): Golden-winged Warblers have lost as much as 98% of their population in the Appalachian Mountains region since the mid 1960s. Recovering Golden-winged Warblers requires restoring young forest habitat—an ongoing activity that supports jobs in the forestry industry and provides additional hunting opportunities by benefiting white-tailed deer, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and other important game species.
  • Lewis’s Woodpecker (Oregon): This fly-catching woodpecker nests in large snags (standing dead trees) within forests burned by wildfires, in open ponderosas, oaks, oak-pines, and cottonwood riparian woods. But they are declining and even disappearing from former homes. They depend on aerial insects to eat and large snags for nest homes. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will fund investigations of habitat relationships, and actions to maintain or restore forests, along with post-fire ponderosa pine habitat, as well as adding nest boxes to enhance habitat.
  • Black Skimmer (Maryland): Black Skimmers fly just above the water skimming their lower bill below the surface, ready to snap up fish. Maryland’s Black Skimmers have declined by more than 90% in the past 20 years. Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide crucial funds to rebuild and replenish nesting islands for skimmers, terns, Piping Plovers, and other coastal birds.
  • Roseate Tern (Massachusetts): Roughly half of North America’s population of Roseate Terns breeds in the Bay State. Federally listed as an endangered species in the Northeast, Roseate Tern populations are in decline from habitat loss, competition with gulls, and possible threats on their wintering grounds. Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will provide critical funds to protect nesting colonies of these birds on Massachusetts’ islands.

Calling all birders!

Advocates for birds are calling on American birders to speak up for the bill and reach out to their members of Congress to get it passed. On Tuesday, May 24, Corina Newsome of the National Wildlife Federation and Tykee James of the National Audubon Society will host an online “Birders’ Rally” on Zoom to mobilize birders. They will be joined by special guests including Kenn Kaufman, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Bird Conservancy, and more. Newsome provided this description of the event: 

Calling all bird lovers! We need everyone who cares about birds to rally together for the passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. With historic levels of funding and support from both sides of the aisle, this once-in-a-generation legislation is a rare bird. Join us as we flock together in support of this critical bill, which will help protect birds long into the future and make the enjoyment of birds more accessible for all! Hosted by Tykee James and Corina Newsome, this rally will feature leaders in avian conservation and give you an opportunity to take action to encourage your Members of Congress to vote YES on this bill. Bring your passion and excitement, because we need YOU to push Recovering America’s Wildlife Act over the finish line!
If you would like to mobilize your networks to support this legislation, check out the Birder’s Toolkit, a resource full of social media, email, and letter templates to use as you encourage your communities and members of Congress to support Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. 

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