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The Wildlife Society Student Chapter at Stephen F. Austin State University Joins the Texas Alliance!

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Written by Alejandra S. Martinez

Contributions by Jake Hill, Taylor McDaniel

SFASU Wildlife Management students Jake Hill, Taylor McDaniel, and Alejandra Martinez

Deep within the pines of East Texas, the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture (ATCOFA) is home to the Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) Lumberjacks. Members of the SFASU Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society (SFA TWS) have continuously shown involvement and leadership on wildlife conservation projects throughout the deep East Texas community. Jake Hill, a Wildlife Management student and the SFA TWS President, has been recognized at both state and national levels for establishing the Advocacy and Policy Committee and their work to promote education and awareness of natural resource policy to students and the public, and specifically, with the Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA).

Advocacy for RAWA began in 2018 when Kyle Brunson, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) wildlife biologist at Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, approached the SFA TWS and mentioned this new RAWA advocacy program. SFA TWS soon began building and expanding its advocacy efforts and became one of the topmost active student committees in the state of Texas. Within the first year, Hill worked closely with Tarleton State University to expand and increase involvement throughout Texas.

The SFA TWS jumped at the chance to delve into the world of wildlife policy and legislation. RAWA opened a great opportunity for students to become involved in the policy side of the wildlife profession. Policy has played a pivotal role in the conservation story of North America’s wildlife. Without policy many of the tenants of the North American Model of Conservation would become meaningless and many landmark pieces of wildlife legislation such as the Pittman-Robertson Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Duck Stamp Act, would not exist. These Acts, and many more, are critical to the conservation of wildlife within their respective roles. The SFA TWS believes understanding policy is important to the education and development of a wildlife professional. The opportunity to work on the Recovering America's Wildlife Act was an excellent chance to develop students’ understanding and education of wildlife policy.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H. R. 3742, is bipartisan legislation that would allocate nearly $1.4 billion in annual funding to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies for at-risk wildlife conservation funding. The funding would come from existing revenues and there would be no new tax. Texas stands to acquire over $50 million each year. The passage of the bill would fund proactive research, conservation and habitat projects that will help prevent more species from becoming threatened or endangered. Over 2,244 species in America have already been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The passage of H.R. 3742 will not only be beneficial to the West Gulf Coastal Plains species such as the Northern Bobwhite, Prothonotary warbler, and the Alligator snapping turtle, but also to species across the nation that have yet to be monitored and studied -- and those that require immediate conservation action. “Support for RAWA is support for more understanding and action for our nations' wildlife and ensuring its existence for future generations", Taylor McDaniel SFASU TWS’ Co-Chair explains.

A Species of Greatest Conservation Need in East Texas, the Prothonotary warbler

Funding from the Recovering America's Wildlife Act could help expand habitat restoration and management in the Pineywoods, and across Texas

The SFA TWS Advocacy and Policy Committee has been recognized at both the state and national levels on multiple occasions for their ceaseless support of Texas natural resource legislation. After sending over 1,000 personalized letters to U.S. House of Representatives from Texas over the past two fall semesters, the program “Student Advocates for Natural Resource Legislation” (SANRL) was founded. SANRL was co-founded by President Hill and is presently co-chaired by current student members of the SFA TWS. Hill explained that SANRL “is an expanded version of our works here at the SFA TWS’ Advocacy and Policy Committee. We currently have 37 members and counting, with members from across the nation -- including Canada! SANRL provides the opportunity for students in the natural resource discipline to experience more than just field work”. SANRL committee participation “facilitates student development while demonstrating the importance of conservation and legislation." Along with co-founding and co-chairing SANRL, the SFA TWS Advocacy and Policy Committee, has presented multiple seminars about H.R. 3742 to various forestry and wildlife classes, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholder groups.

SFASU students sent over 1,000 personalized letters to Members of Congress

The Advocacy and Policy Committee’s two peak points have been co-founding and co-chairing SANRL, and the development of a RAWA promotional video which was released for the benefit of the public. The promotional video can be found here. Most recently, the committee has collaborated with the Texas Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife (TAAFW) on maximizing their efforts to advocate for this legislation in Texas. Alejandra Martinez, the Advocacy and Policy Committee chair, has maintained communication with the TAAFW state coordinator to stay up-to-date with all RAWA related news. With all efforts aimed towards expanding the Advocacy and Policy Committee to various universities across the nation, the SFA TWS is glad to publicly announce they have joined the Texas Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife Alliance. Taking this “lumberjack” size of a leap surfaces many opportunities to demonstrate the importance of legislation in natural resources.

Whether you are in the great state of Texas, Vermont, or Oregon you can reach out to the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife and their local state partners to see what you can do to promote and help pass this important legislation! For SFA TWS, joining the Texas Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife is one step forward to encouraging and developing natural resource students in policy. Meanwhile, they continue their work of training wildlife leaders of!

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?'" - Aldo Leopold

Species of Greatest Conservation Need, Alligator snapping turtle, Photo courtesy TPWD

SFA TWS Advocacy and Policy Committee leaders

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