Representatives from the conservation community joined Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members on Capitol Hill for a briefing on April 20 to discuss recommendations released by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources. The briefing was hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
The Blue Ribbon Panel’s recent recommendations call for an additional funding approach that will help ensure all fish and wildlife are conserved in the future. Specifically this proposal requests that Congress dedicate $1.3 billion annually in existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program. These funds would provide states with resources needed to implement State Wildlife Action Plans designed to conserve 12,000 at-risk species.
CSF President and Blue Ribbon Panel member Jeff Crane welcomed attendees to the briefing and spoke on behalf of the sportsmen’s community. “America’s hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and boaters have been the primary funders of state-based conservation efforts to this day,” said Crane. “This recommendation simply uses funding for conservation from other sectors that use our natural resources.”
“We need to have a modern wildlife conservation policy for the 21st century. It recognizes and empowers the states because they are on the front lines of conservation for our nation’s wildlife,” said CSC Member Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI). “It’s critical that we provide resources to them so they can prevent wildlife from becoming endangered.”
“[States] provide the road map for what we need to do,” said Dave Chanda, Director of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and President of AFWA. “The problem is that we have very limited resources and only been able to address a small fraction of the wildlife [conservation needs] contained in the Wildlife Action Plans. We now have the opportunity to take that next step and manage [more] species.”
Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, and Blue Ribbon Panel member, explained that this investment is the third piece of the wildlife conservation puzzle, in addition to the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs. “We can do the same thing for the rest of the species in a way that is fiscally conservative, that empowers the states, that has less federal involvement, and in a way that leads to the next legacy,” said O’Mara.
The Blue Ribbon Panel is co-chaired by former Wyoming Governor David Freudenthal and founder of Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris, and includes representatives from the outdoor recreation retail and manufacturing sector, energy and automotive industries, private landowners, educational institutions, conservation organizations, other sportsmen’s groups, and fish and wildlife agencies.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?