Bipartisanship is rare these days in Washington, D.C. Given the immense polarization of our politics, it merits celebration when players from both sides of the aisle come together to provide real, tangible solutions to pressing issues. On July 20th, 2021, Senators Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, and Roy Blunt, a Republican and the dean of Missouri’s congressional delegation, introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). In a press release, Sen. Blunt’s office claimed that the “landmark bill would make the largest, most significant investment in wildlife and habitat conservation in a generation.” In a world where it can be difficult to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on what to name a post office, the passage of this legislation would be a major accomplishment.
At a time when we are facing a sixth major extinction event and massive habitat degradation, RAWA would lead to big improvements in conservation and restoration efforts nationwide. The Act provides $1.3 billion in annual funding to help protect over 12,000 different species of animals and plants, as well as $97.5 million of additional funds to Tribal nations that oversee 140 million acres of land. Since 2005, each U.S. state and territory has had a State Wildlife Action Plan, developed by scientists and stakeholders and approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. RAWA ensures that conservation efforts will be in accordance with these Plans, to “identify specific strategies to restore the populations of species of greatest conservation need.” Notably, the bill would direct the money collected by fines for environmental malpractice towards wildlife conservation and recovery. RAWA aims to target these funds to facilitate the recovery of endangered or threatened plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act. All together, these provisions would go a long way towards protecting wildlife and repairing the damage humans have done to it.
At a time when we are facing a sixth major extinction event, the Act provides $1.3 billion in annual funding to help protect over 12,000 different species of animals and plants
Senator Blunt believes that RAWA will help the state preserve its natural beauty, stating, “Missouri is home to some of the best hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation our country has to offer. We can better protect our land, waterways, and wildlife by encouraging states, territories, and Tribes to make significant contributions to voluntary conservation efforts. I’m proud to help introduce this bill that will help preserve our nation’s wildlife for future generations.” Other Missouri leaders and groups have endorsed the bill, including Missouri Department of Conservation director Sara Parker Pauley, Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris, and the Conservation Federation of Missouri.
The companion bill in the House was introduced by Representatives Jeff Forntenberry (R-Nebraska) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan). Rep. Fortenberry is a conservative member of the Republican Study Committee while Rep. Dingell is in the left-wing Congressional Progressive Caucus. Despite the many political differences between the four lead sponsors, they recognize the necessity of quick and robust action to conserve nature. In the House, Kansas City, MO Democrat Emmanuel Cleaver, Springfield, MO Republican Billy Long, and Taylorville, IL Republican Rodney Davis are all co-sponsors of the legislation. We hope that more regional Congressmembers of both parties sign on in support.
Despite the many political differences between the four lead sponsors, they recognize the necessity of quick and robust action to conserve nature
At the national and international level, RAWA is backed by a wide variety of organizations with diverse political leanings. The National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Bat Conservation International, The Wildlife Society, The National Audubon Society and ConservAmerica all have come out in support of the legislation.
It remains to be seen whether RAWA will be a stand alone bill or will be attached to the annual budget or a potential infrastructure package. Given that the latter two are likely to be partisan votes, Great Rivers believes that an overwhelming, bipartisan vote in favor of singular legislation would be the best way to demonstrate the government’s commitment to wildlife conservation. Nonetheless, it is very encouraging to see Republicans and Democrats working together to protect wildlife, and we hope that this is a sign of more environmental action to come.
Wade Wilson recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in Environmental Policy. He’s particularly interested in clean energy and its ability to power our lifestyles in an efficient and renewable way. Wade’s hobbies include watching sports, playing the violin and guitar, talking about politics and spending time with friends and family.
Great Rivers Environmental Law Center is a Missouri-based public interest law firm that provides free and reduced-fee services to individuals, organizations and citizen groups working to protect the environment and public health. We receive no government funding and rely on donations to sustain our work.