Bighorn sheep at a water “guzzler” on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, photographed by a motion sensor camera. (USFWS photo).
Since the pandemic began, Nevadans have turned to nature for rejuvenation and recreation. This has given more Nevadans a firsthand experience with our state’s remarkable ecological diversity—from Lahontan cutthroat trout, to Bighorn sheep, to Sage grouse, to Mule deer. But what they may not have noticed is the wildlife crisis quietly unfolding all around us.
Scientists estimate that roughly one-third of America’s wildlife species are at an elevated risk of extinction. Here in Nevada, the Wildlife Resources Commission has identified nearly 250 wildlife species in need of conservation action. The species at risk are found in every habitat and among all major groups of wildlife—from the Gila monster to the Pygmy rabbit to the Desert tortoise.
The good news is that a bold, bipartisan bill has just been introduced in Congress that will go a long way to addressing the wildlife crisis while creating desperately needed jobs and bridging the political divide.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R. 2773 —led by Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)—will direct $1.4 billion of existing federal revenue toward state and tribal efforts to help fish and wildlife species in decline. More than 180 representatives from both sides of the aisle cosponsored the bill in the last session, including Nevada Reps. Mark Amodei and Steven Horsford, and the Nevada Legislature passed a resolution endorsing the act with strong bipartisan support.
If passed, the bill would send approximately $25.9 million annually to Nevada, which would use the money to help the nearly 250 at-risk species by restoring habitat, removing invasive species, addressing wildlife diseases, reducing water pollution, and adapting to climate change. The bill will also assist wildlife conservation efforts lead by tribes, such as the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe’s work to conserve greater sage grouse.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act also provides additional funding for federally-listed endangered species, like the Independence Valley speckled dace. But the main thrust of the bill is intended to prevent wildlife from needing the Endangered Species Act’s federal protections in the first place, which are typically accompanied by strict regulations burdensome to businesses.
We know that this type of proactive wildlife restoration pays off. Two decades ago, Congress created the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, aimed at stepping in early, before a species is on the brink of extinction.
Despite being chronically underfunded, the program has seen meaningful successes. For example, one hundred and fifty years ago bighorn sheep were extirpated from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation. Funding from a Tribal Wildlife Grant helped support the translocation of bighorn sheep to the reservation, with 22 sheep now roaming tribal lands.
This is just one example of how proactive conservation is good for wildlife, good for taxpayers and good for business. The work funded by the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will be guided by the State’s Wildlife Action Plan, which outlines the actions needed, and describes the science behind these recommendations. Some of the labor could be supplied by the Administration’s new Civilian Climate Corps.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would create good jobs for Nevadans today while protecting our state’s wildlife heritage for tomorrow. This session, we hope all members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation will champion this groundbreaking bill and help it become the law of the land.
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