Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Passes U.S. House of Representatives

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R.2773) passed the U.S House of Representatives by a vote of 231-190 on Tuesday June 14. The bill has 194 bipartisan cosponsors and bill sponsor Representative Debbie Dingell worked with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, bringing it before the House Rules Committee on June 13. Passage of the bill is the farthest the bill has gotten as a stand-alone bill and attention will now turn to the Senate where a companion bill that does include several policy differences passed committee in late April.

Two people talking while hiking

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773; S. 2372) will bring much-needed funding to wildlife professionals tasked with conserving the diversity of America’s native species. These resources will fund multi-stakeholder efforts to conserve and monitor at-risk species, known in states as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), and work toward reversing population declines. RAWA provides funding for (1) the conservation or restoration of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need; (2) implementation of the wildlife conservation strategies of states, territories, or the District of Columbia as well as tribes; and (3) wildlife conservation education and recreation projects. The Department of the Interior must use 10% of the funding for a grant program to support innovative recovery efforts for species of greatest conservation need, species listed as endangered or threatened species, or the habitats of such species.

The bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and direct funds through the Department of the Interior to support efforts by state and tribal governments to conserve fish and wildlife. The legislation would:

  • Provide $1.3 billion in dedicated funding annually for the implementation of state fish and wildlife agencies’ wildlife action plans.
  • Provide $97.5 million in dedicated funding annually for tribal agencies to work on at-risk species recovery.
  • Allot 10% of dedicated annual funds towards the implementation of a competitive grants program aimed at innovative conservation efforts with partners.
  • Leverage funds from state agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to boost the power of federal conservation spending.
  • Provide greater regulatory certainty for industry and private partners by proactively conserving species and avoiding the need to list them under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Empower wildlife professionals to hold the nation’s wildlife in the public trust for generations to come by providing state and tribal agencies with the flexibility to conserve populations in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

H.R. 2773 passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in January. Although the bill enjoys bipartisan support and has 194 House co-sponsors, backers acknowledge that without a viable funding source it may not reach the president’s desk. Currently the House version of the bill funds RAWA through the general treasury. The Senate version of the bill, S. 2372, currently has 35 co-sponsors, equally divided between the two parties. The Senate version identifies the funding source as “all civil or criminal penalties, fines, sanctions, forfeitures, or other revenues resulting from natural resource or environmental-related violations or enforcement actions by any Federal agency that are not directed to be deposited in a fund other than” the general U.S. Treasury. It also ramps up funding for state agencies over several years and allocates $187.5 million for a new Endangered Species Recovery and Habitat Conservation Legacy Fund directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 2022 to 2025.

The concept for RAWA emerged from a 2016 Blue Ribbon panel formed to identify approaches to address the 12,000 species identified as species of greatest conservation need. Although the bills have been introduced in three previous sessions of Congress, none has advanced as far as this year. Since introduction in July 2021, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has gained significant momentum and is backed by over 60 Tribes and 1,500 organizations representing state fish and wildlife agencies, sportsmen and women, conservation groups, and industry associations and businesses through the Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife.

Photo Credit
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region, Flickr
June 15, 2022