NEW YORK – More than a third of America’s fish and wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction, but a bill advancing in Congress this week could help.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is scheduled for markup Thursday in the House Natural Resources Committee. According to Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, the bipartisan bill would provide more than $1.3 billion a year to implement federally approved wildlife conservation efforts.
“The goal,” he said, “is to invest in proactive, collaborative conservation in all 50 states and all the territories to try to save the full diversity of America’s wildlife.”
New York state has identified 366 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need,” 166 of which are designated as high priority. The bill has more than 150 co-sponsors, including six members of the New York congressional delegation.
O’Mara said efforts to conserve wildlife species that are hunted or fished have been very successful, but few resources have been steered toward other species.
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“So right now, we have populations of amphibians and reptiles, of songbirds – and grassland birds and forest birds, and shorebirds – that are plummeting,” he said, adding that more than 1,600 species are listed under the Endangered Species Act and another 150 are presumed extinct.
More than a decade ago, the federal government began requiring states to formulate wildlife action plans to qualify for small state wildlife grants. O’Mara said states came up with some very good plans.
“The problem is they’re [an] unfunded mandate,” he said. “There’s never really been the resources put behind them to implement them and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a primary goal of it, is to fund the implementation of these plans, to make sure that we are saving the full diversity of wildlife.”
He said taking action early, before species are on the brink of extinction, is much more cost effective than waiting until they’re added to the endangered species list.