Texas could gain millions in federal funding to help at-risk fish and wildlife

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas could receive more than $50 million annually to pay for initiatives that support at-risk fish and wildlife populations under a bill introduced in Congress. 

Known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), House Resolution 3742 would provide $1.3 billion every year to states and $97.5 million to tribes. The Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife says the funding wouldn’t require new taxes. It would be supported by existing federal revenues from oil and gas production.  

Under the Endangered Species Act, which Congress passed in 1973, species can be listed as “threatened” or “endangered.” The law doesn’t allow a person to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect a listed animal without a permit. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the goal of The Endangered Species Act is to “recover” species so they no longer need protection under the law. 

“The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a cost-effective way to recover fish and wildlife populations without the more reactive, ‘emergency room’ measures of the Endangered Species Act,” John Shepperd, a spokesperson for the alliance, said in a release. “Once a species reaches the need to be listed as Threatened or Endangered, the process of recovery is more difficult and expensive. It is much smarter to act before these at-risk populations reach a critical point.” 

The Lone Star State is home to hundreds of fish, butterflies and birds. There are around 5,000 species of native plants in the state as well. 

According to a report by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, conservation challenges in the state have led to more than 1,000 species being identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Texas Conservation Action Plan. The plan aims to provide a statewide outline for research, restoration, management and recovery projects that can help with improving the status of these species. It strives to keep these species from getting listed under the Endangered Species Act. Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Texas include the San Marcos saddle-case caddisfly, the Texas horn shell and Texas wild rice. The Texas horned lizard, sea turtles and other birds are also in decline. 

The report also highlights several different ways potential funding would be used to protect Texas’ habitats and species populations. How the department would achieve this goal is broken down into several named strategies: Protecting Environmental Flows, Prairie Streams Initiative, Restore Iconic Species, Engage People Through Wildlife Recreation and Connecting Children and Nature. It states that “through agency operations as well as partnerships with the conservation community, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would invest approximately 70 percent of potential funding toward stewardship of Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” Around 10 percent of potential funding would support programs to increase access to the outdoors and more participation. Twenty percent would go towards educating, informing and engaging Texans about the Species of Greatest Conservation Need. 

Steffi Lee is working on a story for our newscasts at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Look for a full report on this bill later this evening. 

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