Conservationists, Unite!

The Biggest Wildlife Protection Bill Since 1973 Will Likely Pass The Senate Soon

The Senate and the House actually agree on something: wildlife protection.

Photo of a Monarch Butterfly sitting on an orange flower
Scott Swank / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

Congress is on a roll. On the heels of the Senate passing the single largest climate mitigation bill in the U.S. to date, achieving a decade-plus long goal of allowing Medicare to directly negotiate medication prices with pharmaceutical companies, $52 billion bill to incentivize manufacturing of semiconductor chips, and a bill giving health care coverage to veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during service, another lesser-known bill that could protect millions of threatened and endangered plant and animal species is on the docket and gaining momentum.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), which passed the House in June and has strong bipartisan support in the Senate, would provide almost $1.4 billion per year to state wildlife agencies to protect and restore plant and animal species. Per Vox, the bill, touted as the biggest wildlife bill since the Endangered Species Act of 1973, could pass the Senate “as soon as this fall.”

The bill couldn’t come at a better time, with the recent announcement that the iconic Monarch butterfly has been placed on the endangered species list. In total, more than 30% of the country’s wildlife species are either threatened or endangered.

Funds from RAWA are sorely needed by state wildlife agencies. Historically, these agencies get most of their funding through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and a tax on hunting and fishing gear. But the number of hunters has dropped, causing funds for conservation to drop.

States also spend the lion’s share of funds on protecting species that drive the hunting and fishing recreation economy, leaving thousands of species unprotected and at risk. RAWA would allow states to focus not only on species that drive the outdoor recreation economy but also on lesser-known species that have no economic value.

Funds will be dispersed based on each state’s size, population, and its number of threatened species. State agencies will also be required to contribute 25% in matching funds.

RAWA will also provide $100 million in funds for America’s 574 Native American Tribes, who manage close to 140 million acres but receive no federal funds for conservation despite paying taxes on fishing and hunting gear just like state residents.

Despite its hefty price tag — RAWA could cost as much as $14 billion over the next 10 years — experts believe the bill is set to pass. RAWA appeals to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and has over a dozen Republican co-sponsors, so it should easily receive the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.