The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources revealed its strategy for investing in fish and wildlife resources to combat habitat and species decline Wednesday.
The task force of conservation, business and industry leaders announced its intent to propose a recommendation of reallocating $1.3 billion in revenue from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program.
“The main task this panel was set to do is find a solution to all this and put into place long-term funding to support the states,” said John Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops and co-chair to the panel, during a press conference Wednesday. “The good news is although it’s a challenging task, there are some talented people on this staff that work in Washington often and have a realistic approach to this and the government.”
The panel, which has been working on this plan since 2014, proposed annual investments being given to each state’s agencies that will go toward state-based conservation projects, said panel co-chair and former Governor of Wyoming David Freudenthal. The revenue, which will be taken from taxes that went toward energy exportation, will allow state agencies to manage species rather spend taxpayer dollars to bring endangered species back.
Freudenthal said conversations shifted from state agencies needing more money to the panel redefining the support for efforts of fish and wildlife populations. He explained that while he was Governor, funds came exclusively from the sale of hunting and fishing license, which was never enough. Even now, agencies are being asked to do more while still not having the funds.
“As soon as you move beyond those (game) species you have guys and gals that buy hunting licenses saying, ‘Look, I’m paying for a license, what in the world am I doing supporting all of these other efforts?’” he said. “The more cost-conscious of them would say, ‘Governor, you’re using my license money that I put in for an elk or a moose to support a species who’s out eating the same animal I want to hunt.’
“They joke about it, but the thing is the money isn’t enough.”
Dave Chada, Association President of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Director of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife, opened the press conference explaining that when he started in 1980, New Jersey had only one pair of nesting bald eagles. Thanks to conservation efforts, New Jersey has 190 pairs today.
“What an incredible story that shows you what you can do when you commit resources to something,” he said. “That’s what this Blue Ribbon panel is all about.”
Added Chada: “I’ve been in the business almost 40 years, but today marks one of the most exciting days I’ve seen when it comes to fish and wildlife management.”
The Blue Ribbon Panel had strong voices from sportsmen, with representatives from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Outdoor Industry Association, Ducks Unlimited, American Sportfishing Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and Pure Fishing, Inc.