March 16, 2016 - If Congress follows the March 2 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources, Louisiana and the nation could receive much needed federal money to help avert the growing endangered species crisis.
The Panel, assembled by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) in 2014, recommended an annual investment of $1.3 billion into the currently unfunded Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program that would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively manage thousands of non-game species facing decline. That would translate into about $19 million a year for Louisiana, compared to current funding levels of less than $1 million.
The money would come from a portion of revenue from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters, which generates more than $10 billion dollars each year.
The funds would help the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to proactively manage these non-game species, reducing taxpayer costs and the regulatory red tape that comes when species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The number of species petitioned for listing under the Act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade.
The Blue Ribbon Panel includes representatives from state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups, higher education, the automotive industry, the energy sector, the outdoor recreation manufacturing and retail sectors, as well as private landowners.
The panel was headed by John L. Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, and former Wyoming governor David Freudenthal. It convened three times and determined that an increased investment in fish and wildlife conservation makes fiscal sense and is needed to protect the nation’ natural heritage.
The goal of the panel was to produce recommendations and policy options on a sustainable and equitable model for the conservation of all fish and wildlife species in the United States. For over 75 years, the highly successful Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) and Sport Fish Restoration (Dingell-Johnson) programs have been the cornerstone of North American conservation, and have exemplified the partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state fish and wildlife agencies.
However, in recent years the number of species petitioned for listing under the ESA has increased by more than 1,000 percent, highlighting the need for robust funding for the conservation of at-risk species of fish and wildlife.
Since 2001, the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program has been the primary funding source for wildlife diversity conservation in the U.S. However, funding levels for the SWG Program have not been sufficient to address the conservation needs of the over 12,000 Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) identified by the states in their State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). The recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel seek to close that funding gap, and help prevent future ESA listings.
If the recommendations of the panel are followed, the LDWF would be able to more effectively implement the Louisiana Wildlife Action Plan and ensure the minimization of future ESA listings. These efforts will benefit not only fish and wildlife, but also hunters, anglers, wildlife viewers, and private industry by increasing wildlife associated recreation opportunities, reducing regulation and creating jobs.
For more information, contact LDWF’s Sam Holcomb at 225-765-0239 or email@example.com.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.