Bill Aims to Protect TN Wildlife Before There’s a Problem

Mussels and other freshwater wildlife are among those that would receive additional protection if the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is passed. (Corey Raimond/flickr)

There are more than 90 species in Tennessee on the Endangered Species list and legislation introduced late last week in Congress would help states make sure no additional species need those protections.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide funding to states to ensure the survival of wildlife before species become endangered.
Mike Butler, CEO of the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, says the Volunteer State has much to gain from the funding.
“Tennessee is the most biologically diverse inland state in the United States,” he points out. “We have several species of mussels and plants that only occur in the state of Tennessee.”
Butler says aquatic life and songbirds would likely receive the most focus on the preventive funding, if it were allocated.
The legislation would be funded by an existing tax paid by oil, mining and other similar industries for the right to develop resources on federal lands.
The tax generates more than $10 billion annually that currently is placed in a general fund.
The bill would dedicate just $1.3 billion of that to the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program, which its supporters say is currently underfunded.
Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says addressing depleting species before they’re on the Endangered Species list is a smarter way to preserve wildlife.
“The goal is to invest in proactive conservation, primarily at the state level, to try to save species before they require the Endangered Species Act,” he states. “And it’s a way to bring partners together for collaborative and voluntary efforts upfront rather than having the emergency measures where you end up in these horrible court battles and very onerous regulations. We can avoid a lot of that if we did more proactive work.”
Butler says the legislation would also be a smarter use of state resources.
“You’re leveraging funding and you’re doing it on pennies on the dollar compared to what it costs when things are on the Endangered Species list,” he states.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide 75 percent of the funding for conservation programs and only require states to pay for a quarter of the cost.