When it comes to lions and tigers and bears, most animal lovers agree they should be protected. But what about animals more common to Kansas? The state is full of deer, foxes, coyotes and more. And lots of folks would like to protect those critters too. Commentator Rex Buchanan tells us about a bipartisan effort in Congress that just might help.
Commentator Rex Buchanan is a writer and director emeritus at the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. The Lawrence resident is also coauthor of the book Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills.
Learn more about the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
Kansans love to discuss wildlife. Out west they talk about antelope and mule deer, kit foxes and magpies, burrowing owls, even the occasional bear. Seeing a jackrabbit can lead to a long conversation about rabbits in the old days. Here in eastern Kansas, people bring up deer and coyotes, possums and raccoons, even the occasional bobcat. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve heard about the northern migration of armadillos. I wish I had a nickel for every Facebook post where somebody’s trail camera shows a mountain lion.
Not that Kansans are unusual. People just about everywhere are in love with animals.
But sometimes, love just ain’t enough.
With the destruction of habitat across the country, all sorts of species are in trouble. Take birds. Some 30% of birds in North America – three billion birds total – have disappeared in the past few decades. Before that, we heard about the reduction of frog and toad populations. Now, monarch butterflies and other invertebrates.
We pick on some species, like prairie dogs, on purpose. Other times the animals are just collateral damage from pesticides and herbicides. But much animal impact is the consequence of habitat reduction and fragmentation. Tearing up grasslands for cultivation, housing, energy development. Draining wetlands. Drying up rivers.
Now, there’s a bill in Congress that could help.
I know, just the phrase, “a bill in Congress,” probably creates nightmarish thoughts of Congressional deadlock, cynical specters of inaction, at best, and vicious political partisan in-fighting at worst.
But this bill, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, seems to have enough broad-based support to get passed. It’s made it through the House and is now in the Senate.
This bill earmarks $1.3 billion per year for states to use to protect and restore wildlife, fish, and some plants. In Kansas, that comes to $17 million a year.
A fair amount of that money here would probably go toward habitat restoration. Grasslands, like the ones in Kansas, are among the most threatened ecosystems, not just by development but from invasive species. Playas, the ephemeral lakes found out west in wet times, are important for waterfowl, and deserve protection. The needs are many.
Just to be clear, this bill doesn’t represent out-of-control federal spending. This is money already generated by hunting and fishing licenses and other fees, money that can now be used exactly the way it was meant to be. And before you worry about governmental overreach, know that any work supported by this money will be with willing landowners, people who volunteer to help with species preservation.
I’m not necessarily advocating a political call to action here. Kansas Senators Moran and Marshall have both signed on as co-sponsors for the bill, so their support should be solid. Although it couldn’t hurt them to hear a message of support for the bill.
Because, in all honesty, we’re leaving the world a poorer place than we found it, in terms of wildlife. Our interest and good intentions are not enough. It’s about time we put our money where our mouths are, when it comes to those species we claim to love.