"The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Is Still A Bipartisan Unicorn"

"As a competing bill emerges, supporters defend RAWA as the ’gold standard.’"

"Nine years ago, Glenn Olson joined a panel whose members, in ordinary circumstances, would rarely appear in the same room together — let alone work as a collaborative team. Olson, chair of bird conservation and public policy at the National Audubon Society, sat with executives from Shell Oil, Toyota Motors and the National Rifle Association, as well as with sportsmen, scientists and former government officials. The panel’s stated goal was to design a new system of funding conservation, one that would ensure the long-term flourishing of the nation’s wildlife.

State and territorial wildlife agencies currently receive most of their funding from hunting and fishing fees and equipment purchases. This revenue is prioritized for game species, while non-game species have to rely on the approximately $60 million agencies receive from the federal budget every year — an amount that, once divided among more than 50 agencies, forces many state and tribal wildlife managers to pick and choose which species to protect. If annual funding was increased to $1.3 billion, Olson’s panel reported, those agencies could reach thousands more “species in greatest conservation need,” restoring some populations before they become endangered.

The panel laid the groundwork for what is now known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). If passed, RAWA would secure an annual $1.3 billion for wildlife agencies and $97.5 million for conservation work by tribal nations. Since it was first introduced in 2021, RAWA has been backed not only by environmental groups but by corporations hoping to avoid the costs associated with federal endangered species regulations. In a polarized Congress, the bill has earned unusually broad bipartisan support. “We got to the point where we just got more and more co-sponsors,” Olson said. “Everybody came together and said, ‘This looks like a durable solution.’”"

Erin X. Wong reports for High Country News April 22, 2024.

Source: High Country News, 04/25/2024