Members of my generation, the millennials, have a unique perspective on many issues. This includes our views on wildlife conservation. Many of us love to hunt and fish, but we also see the need to conserve the full, complicated ecological web of all fish and wildlife. And while many of us don’t pay much attention to the goings-on in Washington, every once in a blue moon, some major new policy catches our eye. That’s what happened to me recently when I saw the words ‘Congress’ and ‘Wildlife’ in the same headline. After reading up on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, I realized this rare bill was something that all outdoors enthusiasts on either end of the political spectrum could agree on.
Since 1937, hunters and anglers have gladly paid a small excise tax on all their gear for the express purpose of funding state wildlife agencies through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Sportfish and Wildlife Restoration Acts. In fact, up to 75% of agencies’ total budgets, are generated by taxes on hunting and angling equipment. As most MWF members know well, the funds provided through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have been crucial to the recovery and management of Montana’s wildlife, ensuring that we have plenty of hunting and fishing opportunity. With enough funds to adequately monitor game species such as deer, elk, or black bears, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks can set appropriate harvest quotas so that game populations keep producing enough animals for a yearly hunt. On the fishing side, Dingell-Johnson funds have supported Montana’s best-in-the-nation wild fisheries. The same wildlife conservation success story is true across the country.
However, hundreds of non-game species – species that are part of the ecological web on which elk, deer, cougars, and trout rely, lack adequate conservation funding from Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson. As a result, they are much more likely to be in decline, and eventually listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 4647) is a critically important solution to this funding gap. This bill would take existing funds generated from energy leases on federal lands and waters and send them to the states for management of species in need of conservation attention. These funds are badly needed to prevent non-game species from further population declines, and also protect game species and maintain state control of wildlife.
While the Pittman-Robertson Act has served the outdoors community well through its 80-year tenure, it is badly in need of more support. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is an outdoors bill for the millennial age. It would put our at-risk wildlife on track to recovery, and ultimately improve hunting and angling opportunity for generations to come. Unlike many of the polarizing issues that our political system argues about, this bill unites people from every end of the political spectrum. Introduced last December, the bill already has nearly 40 cosponsors, both Republicans and Democrats. I encourage my fellow millennials, as well as hunters, anglers, and other conservationists of all generations, to join me in calling on our congressional delegation to support this bill.
by Niall Clancy, MWF Member
Originally from Hamilton, Niall Clancy is currently studying fisheries management at Utah State University. Reach him at email@example.com.