Bipartisan legislation will help fish and wildlife while boosting the economy
By Louie Bond, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine editor
For decades, Texas biologists have toiled over solutions for species teetering on the brink, with some success.
White-tailed deer, nearly wiped out by unregulated hunting in the 1900s, are now plentiful.
Down to seven nesting pairs of bald eagles in Texas in the 1970s due to DDT — now there are 200-plus pairs here.
Fewer than 100 brown pelicans existed in the 1970s, and now they’re off the endangered species list.
American alligators, with their valuable skin, were upgraded from endangered (1967) to threatened in 20 years.
Aplomado falcons, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, eastern wild turkeys, peregrine falcons and so many other Texas animals have come back from near extinction, thanks to the efforts of conservationists.
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle, TPWD
But what if we could help more species, and help them earlier, before their situation becomes dire?
The answer has come in the form of proposed bipartisan national legislation — the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, or RAWA.
With broad bipartisan support, RAWA is poised for upcoming votes in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking Texans to voice their support for this ground-breaking conservation legislation that would bring nearly $1.4 billion in new funding nationally, with $50 million earmarked for Texas fish and wildlife. The money would come from existing revenues, so there would be no new taxes.
“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act represents one of the most promising and potentially transformative pieces of legislation that Congress has considered in decades to help benefit conservation,” says TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. “RAWA is at a pivotal place in Congress right now — that’s where we need your help. I hope that you’ll join me and the Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife with our “Crossing the Finish Line” campaign as we encourage members of congress to help support this critically impactful and needed piece of conservation legislation.”
What would these new funds mean for Texas wildlife and those who love our iconic species? The agency plans to apply funds to implement the Texas Conservation Action Plan, a statewide “road map” for research, restoration, management and recovery projects addressing Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) and important habitats, along with much-needed fish, wildlife and nature education programs.
The funding is needed more than ever, as one-third of all fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction. Experts have identified 12,000 species of concern nationwide, including more than 1,200 in Texas. RAWA funds will help restore fish and wildlife habitat such as grasslands, prairies, forests, rivers, bays, and estuaries.
RAWA helps people as well as wildlife. Texas’ growing multimillion-dollar outdoor recreation industry depends on protecting these species and their habitats, offering more for Texans who now seek to be outdoors more than ever. Spending time in nature provides many physical and mental health benefits, and RAWA’s transformative funding would invest in future generations through increased nature education and wildlife-associated recreation. If passed, $12 million would be available each year to invest in nature education, with an additional $6 million a year to invest in providing more and better outdoor recreation opportunities such as hiking, paddling, bird watching and nature photography.
New jobs will come with new projects. RAWA could spark thousands of new public/private “shovel-ready” jobs for wildlife management, tree planting, river restoration and wildlife reintroductions.
Recovering America's Wildlife Act is the kind of breakthrough that comes once in a generation. Here’s how to contact your elected officials to tell them you support it:
Senator Ted Cruz: (202) 224-5922 Senator John Cornyn: (202) 224-2934 U.S. Representative: Use https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member
More resources: www.txwildlifealliance.org/take-action