BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) – In what conservationists call a “home run for American wildlife,” the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is able to provide $1.39 billion to states, territories and tribes to support proactive habitat restoration for species at risk across the United States – including right here in North Dakota. Now, the bipartisan bill awaits a vote in the Senate.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, a third of our country’s fish and wildlife species are threatened or endangered.
Current conservation efforts throughout North Dakota include the transfer of dollars to private landowners to voluntarily restore native habitats. Under the State Wildlife Action Plan, areas and species have been identified as high priority, including our state bird, Eastern Meadowlark, and pollinators like bees.
“Bees are important to us because as pollinators they contribute to the nation’s food supply. So there are a lot of species that people sometimes don’t think about very much, but they’re all important for very specific reasons,” said Scott Peterson, assistant director of North Dakota Game and Fish.
If the bill passes as is, North Dakota could receive about $15 million a year in dedicated funding. This is one of the largest concerted wildlife management efforts since the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937. However, not everyone agrees that RAWA is the way forward.
“The people of North Dakota are the best stewards of our environment, and we support responsible wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. However, this bill does not do that. It allocates more than $1 billion a year in permanent mandatory spending. Regardless of the intent of this bill, the last thing our country needs is more inexplicable spending from Washington,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-ND.
Congressman Kelly Armstrong voted against the legislation.
“There is always this question: is it going to be enough to move the needle? And we hope it does, but time will tell. The ultimate goal here is to prioritize the conservation of these species and improve and restore habitat with the goal of keeping these species off the threatened or endangered list,” Peterson said.
If the bill passes, the funds would be used in accordance with the state’s wildlife action plan to amplify existing efforts.
“I think we’ve seen a change in attitude towards conservation. There is a lot of interest there. But again, these will be voluntary programs. If someone isn’t interested in joining conservation on their land, we’re okay with that,” Peterson added.
There are approximately 115 conservation priority species in North Dakota.
The bipartisan bill passed 231 to 190 last week and is now heading to the Senate. He has already brought together 16 Republican co-sponsors.
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