Teaming With Wildlife Fights for Wildlife Conservation FundingEarlier this month, I had the opportunity to be part of an eloquently chaotic event known as a fly-in, compounded by the ‘snowquester,’ an unfortunate combination of a major snowstorm false alarm and the Federal Budget crisis. NWF regularly hosts fly-ins to bring constituents to DC to meet with their elected officials (or their staff) to stress the importance of specific legislation. Put simply, this means a lot of running around Capitol Hill, shaking a lot of hands, and sharing your passion with a lot of like-minded people. Despite the weather, I joined 80+ partners from around the country who came together on the Hill to advocate for vital funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grant programs.
The Wildlife Grant program was created by Congress in 2000 thanks to strong support from the Teaming with Wildlife Coalition. The Wildlife Action Plans that states write to qualify for this funding have already identified over 10,000 species that are at-risk, their key threats, and the conservation needed to ensure their continued survival. In the old conservation adage, the goal of these plans is to keep common species common. As a bonus, NWF is also working to ensure these plans are “Climate Smart” by incorporating climate adaptation into new and existing plans. Funding for the SWG program is thus vital for current and future conservation.
Conservation Funding in Action
The great thing about the State Wildlife Grant program is that it already has a proven track record. When people think of my home state of Connecticut, they often see just another suburb of New York. Even here, however, a variety of species — from the prehistoric horseshoe crab to the adorable (yet imperiled) New England Cottontail rabbit — have benefited from the research and conservationSWG funding has provided.
In my adopted home of Maine, where I studied at the University of New England, grant funding was used to survey and protect important waterways and terrestrial habitats vital for the survival of moose and a variety of rare species. Although Maine touts itself as “The Way Life Should Be,” the state has faced challenges in protecting its wildlife in the past. In the late 1970s, the region almost lost its population of Bald Eagles, the symbol of America. Thanks in part to active conservation funded by the Wildlife Grant program, the population increased ten-fold to over 300 nesting pairs in recent years.Sequestration is already reducing funding for federal programs across the board. Conservation and environmental efforts, such as those supported by the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, are particularly at risk. While the Endangered Species Act is designed to prevent the extinction of endangered species, the SWG program can prevent listings altogether, saving more species and more taxpayer dollars in the long run. The benefits of these programs are countless, and I encourage you to see how your state wildlife is benefiting from this funding. I also urge you to contact your Senators and Representatives to encourage them to support the highest level of funding possible to ensure these vital conservation efforts continue.