$1.3 Billion recommendation for wildlife conservation

$1.3 Billion recommendation for wildlife conservation

WASHINGTON, DC (AGFC) – A group of energy, business and conservation leaders released their recommendations March 2, on how to avert the growing endangered species crisis in the U.S. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources determined a portion of revenue from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters could fund state-based efforts to address conservation needs for thousands of species.

An annual investment of $1.3 billion from these development revenues into the currently unfunded Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively manage these species. This would reduce taxpayer costs and the regulatory red tape that comes when species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The number of species petitioned for listing under the Act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade.

"A lot is at stake if we don't act soon," said former Wyoming governor, David Freudenthal, co-chair of the panel. "For every species that is thriving in our country, hundreds of species are in decline. These recommendations offer a new funding approach that will help ensure all fish and wildlife are conserved for future generations. We need to start down a new path where we invest proactively in conservation rather than reactively."

The panel was assembled in 2014 and met three times to produce recommendations and policy options on the most sustainable and equitable model to fund conservation of the full array of fish and wildlife species. The panel was co-chaired by Freudenthal and John L. Morris, noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops. It includes representatives from the outdoor recreation retail and manufacturing sector, the energy and automotive industries, private landowners, educational institutions, conservation organizations, sportsmen's groups and state fish and wildlife agencies. During their meetings, panelists agreed that an increased investment in fish and wildlife conservation makes fiscal sense and is needed to protect our natural heritage. Their recommendation would redirect and dedicate $1.3 billion each year from the over $10 billion in revenues from energy development (both renewable and traditional) and mineral development on federal lands and waters.

"Conservation means balancing the sustainability of fish and wildlife resources with the many needs of humans for clean air and water, land, food and fiber, dependable energy, economic development and recreation. It is our responsibility to lead the way so our state fish and wildlife agencies have the resources they need to conserve species and manage our natural resources – the future of our industry and the outdoor sports we love depend on this investment," noted Morris. "Redirecting revenues from energy and mineral development to state-based conservation is a simple, logical solution, and it is now up to our leaders in Congress to move this concept forward."

State fish and wildlife agencies have primary responsibility for managing species within their borders, as well as conserving important habitats and providing outdoor recreation opportunities. States have developed state wildlife action plans identifying 12,000 species in greatest need for conservation efforts. However, limited funding requires prioritization of the species facing the highest risk of endangerment, leaving thousands of other species and their habitats hanging in the balance.

"It just makes good sense to manage for these species that we see declines in before it becomes a panic-button situation," said Mike Knoedl, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "Many of these species share habitat with popular game animals as well, so any improvement focused on their populations will benefit others as well. The plan offered by the Blue Ribbon Panel is sound, and offers energy and mineral companies a chance to help prevent drastic changes in land use policies or project delays because of declining wildlife species becoming threatened or endangered."