BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) – In what conservationists call a “home run for America’s wildlife,” the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is positioned to provide $1.39 billion for states, territories and tribes to support proactive habitat restoration of at-risk species across the US — including right here in North Dakota. Now the bipartisan bill awaits a vote in the Senate.
One-third of the fish and wildlife species in our country are threatened or endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
Current conservation efforts across North Dakota include the movement of dollars to private landowners to voluntarily restore native habitats. Under the State Wildlife Action Plan, areas and species have been identified as a high priority — including our state bird, the Western Meadowlark, and pollinators like bees.
“Bees are important to us because as pollinators they help with the nation’s food supply. So, there’s a lot of species there that people sometimes don’t give a lot of thought to, but they’re all important for very specific reasons,” said Scott Peterson, deputy director with North Dakota Game and Fish.
If the bill passes as is, North Dakota could receive an estimated $15 million annually in dedicated funding. It’s one of the largest concerted wildlife management efforts since the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act. However, not everyone agrees that RAWA is the way to go.
“North Dakotans are the best stewards of responsible our environment, and we support wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. However, this bill doesn’t do that. It allocates more than $1 billion annually in permanent, mandatory spending. Regardless of the intention of this bill, the last thing our country needs is more unaccountable spending from Washington,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-ND.
Congressman Kelly Armstrong voted against the legislation.
“There’s always this question: is it going to be enough to move the needle? And we hope that it is, but time will tell. The ultimate goal here is to take those species of conservation priority and enhance and restore habitat in an effort to keep those species off the threatened or endangered species list,” said Peterson.
If the bill goes through, the funds would be used in accord with the State Wildlife Action Plan to amplify existing efforts.
“I think we have seen a shift in attitude towards conservation. There’s a lot of interest out there. But again, these are going to be voluntary programmes. If somebody’s not interested in signing on to conservation on their land, we’re okay with that,” added Peterson.
There are about 115 species of conservation priority in North Dakota.
The bipartisan bill passed the House last week with a 231 to 190 vote and now heads to the Senate. There it has already collected 16 Republican co-sponsors.
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