Conservation groups in Florida and around the country want Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to help states with wildlife conservation.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has just been reintroduced. It would dedicate $1.4 billion annually to state wildlife agencies and tribes to restore species with the greatest conservation need. In Florida, the gopher tortoise, Florida panther and nesting shorebirds would be among the species to benefit.
Sarah Gledhill, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said she does not want to see any of Florida’s iconic species being mentioned as candidates for federal ‘endangered’ status.
“Because once those species are at risk of extinction, it becomes more timely, more uncertain of their recovery,” Gledhill pointed out. “And most importantly to everyday citizens in Florida, more costly. ”
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would infuse about $38 million annually into Florida for the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, to keep at-risk species from being listed as endangered. The Act was left out of the omnibus spending bill last fall because lawmakers in Congress could not agree on how to pay for it.
Mike Leahy, director of wildlife, hunting and fishing Policy for the National Wildlife Federation, said they have built a lot of momentum with the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as the conservation community works to attract new supporters. He emphasized the bill focuses on proactive and collaborative efforts to keep species from becoming threatened.
“You got a lot of partners in Florida that are working on joint projects like lagoon restoration, for example,” Leahy explained. “You have federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but then you have water management districts, the state agency, some of the universities down there, like University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University.”
The bill would also dedicate around $98 million annually for Florida wildlife conservation efforts by Native American tribes. The nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes have managed lands and wildlife for years with limited federal funding for conservation.