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Senate Passes Infrastructure Bill with Funding for Wildlife Crossings, “Natural Infrastructure”
On Tuesday August 10, the U.S. Senate voted 69-30 in favor of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that includes funding for several “natural infrastructure” and conservation programs. Organizations had worked to include habitat restoration and management funding as part of an overall investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
Included in the bill that passed the Senate was $8 billion for flood resilience and wildfire prevention and management, $130 million annually for reforestation, $300 million over five years for emergency watershed protection, $11.2 billion for abandoned mines reclamation and $4.67 billion to cap orphaned wells on federal lands, $800 million for the National Culvert Removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant program, $2.1 billion over five years for infrastructure improvement on public lands, among others. Of particular note, the legislation includes $350 million in a new grant program to reduce wildlife collisions and improve human safety on roads. This is the first time that specific funding has been allocated for the overpasses, underpasses, and fencing that help maintain traditional wildlife movement corridors.
“Habitat connectivity provisions like the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program offer the best possible return on investment for Americans, ensuring multi-benefit solutions to critical issues of public safety, infrastructure resilience, and robust species populations,” said Ron Regan, Executive Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
In addition, the bill includes funding for specific regional ecosystem restoration programs including $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, $238 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, $172 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, $79 million for the Columbia River Basin Program, and $16 million for the South Florida Program. The bill also includes reauthorization for the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund that provides significant funding for state-based fisheries conservation efforts as well as restoration of aquatic and coastal habitats.
“The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund is one of the nation’s most important conservation programs,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “Last year, the sportfishing industry contributed over $200 million into the trust fund through the federal excise tax on fishing equipment. The fisheries conservation and public access projects carried out all across the country provide opportunities for the nation’s 55 million anglers to enjoy time on the water.”
Enactment of the final $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation is being tied to a more partisan debate over the $3.5 trillion budget resolution. Whether it is ultimately signed into law will be determined in the coming weeks.