LINCOLN – A nationwide panel of energy, business and conservation leaders on March 2 released its recommendations on how to avert the nation’s growing endangered species crisis, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).
The panel, co-chaired by former Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal and Bass Pro Shops founder John Morris, determined that using a portion of revenues from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters to fund state-based conservation could address conservation needs for thousands of species.
An annual investment of $1.3 billion from these development revenues into the unfunded Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively manage these species, reducing taxpayer costs and the regulatory red tape that comes when species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
These funds would address the wildlife conservation gaps. Traditionally, state fish and wildlife agencies, such as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, have been funded by sportsmen through license fees and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment and motorboat fuels. These funds support many conservation activities, but wildlife agencies also have responsibilities for restoring at-risk species populations, education and keeping common species common, all of which is largely unfunded.
States are poised to take action should the Blue Ribbon Panel be successful. Every state has a wildlife action plan. Collectively, these plans identify 12,000 species in greatest need for conservation efforts.
Nebraska’s wildlife action plan, the Natural Legacy Project, identifies 89 species of greatest conservation need. Of these, more than two dozen species of plants and animals in Nebraska are listed as threatened or endangered.
If funded, Nebraska would collaborate with partners and landowners to implement proactive, voluntary projects to enhance our grasslands, combat invasive species, restore wetlands and improve our woodlands.
AFWA represents North America’s fish and wildlife agencies to advance sound, science-based management and conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats in the public interest.