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EcosystemsWe Are Running Out of Time to Pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife...

We Are Running Out of Time to Pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

We Are Running Out of Time to Pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Ezekiel Maben, Oliver Hegi, Mel Peh, and Courtney Federico
|November 4, 2022

The US faces an ongoing biodiversity crisis, worsened by climate change and the destruction of habitat. Twenty-three species of native plants and animals in america were declared extinct last 12 months; tons of of others are near extinction. This grim picture spreads beyond essentially the most endangered species: wildlife populations globally have fallen by greater than 60% on average since 1970.

With the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), Congress has a possibility to pass the most important expansion of wildlife protection funding in a generation. The bill is already approved by the House of Representatives. If the Senate doesn’t pass it now, it should should be passed again next 12 months by the House — which, consequently of the November 8 elections, may comprise a Republican majority less inclined to support conservation efforts. Thus, this can be a critical moment to garner support to pass this landmark wildlife conservation bill before the clock runs out on this legislative session.

Only 54 species have been recovered from the endangered species list within the history of its existence, and this isn’t surprising. Existing US conservation laws dedicates lower than half of the estimated $2.3 billion that is required yearly to get better the greater than 1,600 species listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will help solve this gap in funding. To cite a recent statement from the Biden administration, the bill would “make billions of dollars in supplemental funding dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife species available to state and territorial fish and wildlife managers. This may help prevent the necessity to list species and get better species currently listed as threatened or endangered.”

The fundamental bottleneck to wildlife population recovery is a scarcity of consistent funding, and RAWA addresses just that. If it passes the Senate during this session of Congress, a further $850 million can be added to the conservation budget in 2023 — nearly 3 times greater than the present discretionary conservation budget of about $300 million this past 12 months. By 2026, that number would top out at $1.3 billion. This funding can be the brand new backbone of American wildlife conservation and would empower states and tribes to more adequately address the biodiversity problem. Moreover, much-needed funding can be allocated to clear the Endangered Species Act backlog, in addition to for grants to support progressive conservation efforts.

Biodiversity loss is as much a human issue because it is a difficulty for the animal kingdom. The loudest voices in animal conservation are sometimes the individuals who have essentially the most proximity to wildlife. Nonetheless, tribes, fishers, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts are removed from the one people who find themselves affected by the biodiversity crisis. Flourishing ecosystems provide services which are essential to our well-being and health. Though they might not seem apparent to us, healthy ecosystems provide resources for agriculture and the economy; they regulate climate, water, and disease, and supply irreplaceable cultural value. When biodiversity flourishes, ecosystem services grow more abundant, too.

Plains bison were successfully recovered through long-term state and federal wildlife conservation programs. Photo: Judson Spicer/USFWS

Funding spent on animal conservation has been very successful prior to now. For instance, the plains bison was recovered from near extinction through almost a century of habitat protection and captive breeding. Today, as many as 20,000 plains bison roam wild and support other species of plants and animals through their vast contributions to the greater ecosystem.

The plains bison example shows that long-term funding commitments are an integral part of successful conservation efforts. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is designed to offer consistent funding for state agencies to plan and invest normally conservation projects or conserve species for the long run, before they’re on the point of extinction. Studies have shown that early intervention is way more economical in comparison with reviving a critically endangered species whose numbers have been allowed to constantly decline. Within the absence of consistent funding, conservation managers are forced to make difficult decisions, and neglect species they might otherwise help.

While the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passed the House with bipartisan support this session, it received fewer votes from Republicans than expected, with many opposing it attributable to concerns about spending. In a future Congress controlled by Republicans, it’s unlikely that the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act can be viewed as a priority. Even under a Democratic speakership, issues just like the war in Ukraine or a possible recession may crowd out the repassage of the bill. The Senate cannot simply sit on this bill, confident it should return to it next 12 months.

Though few senators publicly speak out against RAWA, ballooned federal spending and high inflation may not help with the bill’s prospects. But even in a tighter fiscal environment, wildlife conservation mustn’t be deprioritized. For one, the price of this program is a drop within the bucket in comparison with the $6.8 trillion that the U.S. spent in 2021. More importantly, the prices of biodiversity loss are immense and annually of inaction adds to the price of recovering America’s wildlife. A dollar spent on conservation today could mean many dollars saved a decade down the road.


Protecting black footed ferret kits within the wild costs $5,000 per kit. But when extirpated, captive breeding can cost as much as $40,000 per kit. Photo: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Opportunities to remodel conservation efforts in america don’t come around each day. If we pass up this chance to advocate for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, we may not get a probability again for a very long time. And with out a regular stream of funding for conservation, we face a future with much less biodiversity.

It’s imperative that Congress take this chance and protect American wildlife. While you vote this November 8, vote for candidates who support the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and call your senator to encourage them to pass this essential bill. What we do now will set the tone for wildlife conservation for the remainder of this century. We can be silly to not take the chance. 

The authors are graduate students in Columbia University’s Masters in Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy, and are currently working on an implementation simulation of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.


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