An optimistic agenda for wildlife – even during the nation’s turbulent times
Focusing our nation’s leaders on a proactive wildlife conservation agenda is difficult, if not impossible, as each day a breaking political news story grabs the country’s collective attention. With America’s fish and wildlife continuing to decline at an alarming rate – as many as one-third of U.S. species are at increased risk of extinction, and nearly 700 are now listed as either threatened or endangered – we simply can’t afford not to make progress, even in Washington, D.C.
This means holding the line on the vital wildlife conservation laws and funding, and bringing Democrats and Republicans together to protect wildlife and the habitat that wildlife depend on.
Every single American can play a crucial role in helping keep wildlife from becoming a casualty of continuing partisan gridlock and acrimony. Each action you take, letter you write, phone call you make, and dollar you donate puts the needs of wildlife directly in front of decision-makers. And when tens of thousands of other friends of wildlife join with you, we can get results on these and other wildlife priorities:
Dedicated funding for wildlife conservation
The sad reality is, wildlife conservation programs often fall to the bottom of the list when spending decisions are made – even though wildlife-related recreational activities contribute over $140 billion to our economy, and two out of every five Americans participate in them.
States simply don’t have the money to proactively manage their wildlife at-risk. Current annual funding for each State Wildlife Action Plan — a state-specific strategy for keeping vulnerable species off the endangered list — is less than five percent of what the states have determined it actually costs.
To help solve this perpetual shortfall, we need a dedicated source of funding. The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife would dedicate $1.3 billion each year to these state conservation efforts — money that realistically can tackle America’s wildlife crisis.
Developed by a blue-ribbon panel of business, energy and conservation leaders, including the National Wildlife Federation, this plan calls for revenue from existing energy and resource development on public lands to go to states, where they could tailor individualized plans for keeping threatened wildlife off the endangered species list.
Protecting our wild public lands from development
Critical to keeping species off the endangered list is ensuring they have the habitat needed to thrive. Our national parks, forests, reserves and national monuments provide much of those wild lands and waters – but they are under unprecedented attack right now by the current administration and allies in Congress.
President Trump has called for a review of all national monument designations going back 20 years, wild lands that include Bears Ears in Utah, Katahdin Woods in Maine, Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, and Papahānaumokuākea off Hawaii’s coast. This ‘review’ by the Department of Interior, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, could possibly shrink or eliminate monuments boundaries, end public access, or undo current protections for wildlife and archeological sites.
More than 10 bills already have been introduced in the current Congress to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of our public lands. The intention behind much of this legislation is to shift management or ownership to the states, where these lands could be opened up for energy development or sold off to private interests.
With your help we have successfully fought past attempts to eat away at our wild public lands, but we are expecting a tough battle to save Utah’s Bears Ears as well as other national monuments in this current review. Please send a message now to Secretary Zinke before the public comment period closes, demanding wild public lands be protected.
Safeguarding millions of acres of habitat from being converted to industrial agriculture
Growing corn for ethanol already has caused the loss of huge swaths of grassland habitat in America—and plowed under millions of acres of wild milkweed plants that monarch caterpillars must have survive. Destroying more grassland to grow corn for renewable fuels will put the monarch population, which has decreased 27 percent in just the past year, in further jeopardy.
By increasing demand for corn and soybeans, the federal corn ethanol mandate encourages farmers to convert wildlife habitat and other land into crop production, impacting important wildlife species like the monarch butterfly and increasing farm runoff into streams.
We are seeking reforms that will make the Renewable Fuel Standard less damaging to wildlife, including reducing the corn ethanol mandate to stem the loss of habitat to agriculture; stronger enforcement of restrictions on land conversion already in the law; and funding to address the damage that has been done to wildlife habitat and water quality as a result of the corn ethanol mandate. Take action to defend native grassland habitat for monarchs and other wildlife.
Reducing pollution, addressing our climate crisis
Decades of wildlife conservation progress is now threatened by our growing climate crisis. Unless swift action is taken to address air and water pollution, scientists expect we will see massive rates of extinction this century.
That action plan includes reducing carbon pollution from power plants and vehicles, maintaining U.S. leadership and participation in the Paris Agreement, curtailing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and strong pollution enforcement – all of which face rollbacks and budget cuts by the administration and Congress.
Longer-term, free-market climate solutions also are needed. That’s why we’re working to support for measures such as a carbon price or fee similar to what has been endorsed by Republican luminaries like James Baker, George Schultz and Henry Paulson.
The National Wildlife Federation also continues to aggressively defend clean water laws that are critical to restoring the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation’s waters. Healthy streams and wetlands are vital to healthy communities and habitat, and support local hunting, fishing and birdwatching.
Growing the outdoor economy
As the Administration and Congress craft an infrastructure bill, it’s important they look beyond roads and bridges to investing in the outdoor economy – restoring forest habitat, reclaiming abandoned mines, and fixing clean-water infrastructure.
America’s outdoor economy is one of the fastest growing parts of our nation’s economy, generating more than $887 billion in annual economic benefit, supporting 7.6 million jobs and contributing $124.5 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.
By dedicating just 5 percent of a potential $1 trillion infrastructure package to investment in pubic lands, wildlife conservation and water resources, Congress can deliver a win-win for the economy and wildlife – creating jobs, revitalizing rural America, and honoring the conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.
As we work toward this goal, we will keep pushing for robust conservation funding in the Farm Bill reauthorization, as well as a fire funding fix for the Forest Service budget, so the agency can fight more frequent wildfires while fulfilling its core responsibility of wildlife habitat restoration, forest management, recreation and research.