(The Center Square) – A bill spearheaded by Missouri Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and supported by three state Congressional reps would deliver about $20 million a year in boosted funding for “conservation opportunity areas” across the Show Me State, where the outdoor industry supports about 100,000 jobs and generates more than $12 billion in annual economic impact.
“The broad, bipartisan support for this bill demonstrates how important wildlife and habitat preservation are to states across the nation,” said Blunt. “Missouri is no exception, with some of the best hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in the country.”
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act of 2021 (RAWA) earmarks nearly $1.4 billion for “conservation or restoration of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need” (SGCNs).
The House RAWA bill was filed in April by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and has drawn 125 co-sponsors, including three of Missouri’s eight Congressional representative – Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, Bill Long, R-Springfield, and Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville.
The Senate RAWA bill was co-filed in July by Blunt and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. It has 27 co-sponsors, including 14 GOP senators, 12 Democrat senators and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine.
While the House bill is advancing in the chamber’s Ways & Means Committee, the Senate version as yet to be heard. Blunt on Friday called on the Senate to get moving on RAWA.
“I’m encouraged by the growing support we have for the bill and hope to see it considered by the Environment and Public Works Committee soon,” he said, noting RAWA is supported by more than 1,500 organizations representing state fish and wildlife agencies, anglers, hunters, conservation groups, industry associations and businesses across the nation as well as in Missouri.
RAWA, among other aims, seeks to “accelerate the recovery” of 1,600 species in the U.S. listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act by requiring states adopt State Wildlife Action Plans to restore SGCN populations.
The bill would boost annual funding from $60 million to $1.3 billion for state plans and provide $97.5 million annually to Tribal nations to fund conservation plans for roughly 140 million acres.
If adopted, RAWA would be the second large conservative package passed by Congress since 2019’s adoption of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides $900 million annually for the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
Despite bipartisan support, similar RAWA bills the last few years stumbled over conservatives’ insistence that hunters and anglers, not taxpayers, ante up more for conservation, no clarity in offsetting the bill’s expenditures, concerns about state-centric funding and criticism the plan focuses on fauna (animals) to the detriment of flora (plants).
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) maintains RAWA would funnel more than $20 million in additional funding annually into its Comprehensive Conservation Strategy that outlines projects in 209 “conservation opportunity areas.”
Among them is the MDC’s effort with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and St. Louis County to remove 90% of 70,000 Asian carp from Creve Coeur Lake.
MDC maintains RAWA’s “proactive approach” in SGCN-focused plans will lead to “preventing the need for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act.”
According to USGS, Missouri has about 1.163 million surface acres of water comprised of nearly 900 public lakes, 486 miles of the Mississippi River, 553 miles of the Missouri River, almost 16,000 miles of other permanent streams, more than 39,000 miles of intermittent streams and about 500,000 private lakes.
Each year, 1.1 million anglers in Missouri generate more than $2.1 billion in the state and about 600,000 individuals who hunt and 2.2 million who view wildlife on state land generate $3.6 billion a year, according to MDC.