Congress looks at $1.4B for wildlife conservation — how Texas would benefit

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — During the pandemic, Texans headed to nature preserves in record numbers. with more people visiting parks, hunting, fishing and boating then ever before.

Now, Congress is considering the “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” to support wildlife conservation efforts.

H.R. 2773 would provide $1.4 billion to state and tribal wildlife conservation initiatives to support at-risk wildlife populations and their habitats.

The sounds of nature have been welcome noises for many trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Austinite Molly Agress spent part of her Thursday walking along Lady Bird Lake — her escape from the everyday hustle and bustle.

“Everyone realized how boxed in they are,” said Agress. “Getting out, having that green space and really just having the time to breathe.”

This is a treasure the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to keep.

“We would invest in nature centers and education programs,” said Richard Heilbrun, Texas Parks conservation outreach leader. “We would use the money to put it into the economy, so that we can both provide jobs and recover these wildlife species.”

Heilbrun said current state funding is less than 5% of what is needed to solve the endangered species problems in Texas. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would filter $50 million into Texas wildlife and conservation.

“A lot of conservation is funded by hunters and anglers,” said Heilbrun. “That money has worked really well for those species that are hunted and fished, but there’s a whole group of species not hunted or fished that need dedicated wildlife funding.”

If passed, this legislation would send grant funds flowing across Texas to nonprofit organizations, nature centers, universities, landowners and many others for projects to conserve vulnerable wildlife before they become endangered. 

TPWD said species like the much-loved Texas horned lizard, our state fish, the Guadalupe bass and many songbirds and coastal birds are among the many wildlife that would benefit.

Right now, the bill is led by bipartisan support from 81 cosponsors. One of those supporters is District 10 Congressman Michael McCaul.

“If we don’t protect them, then they’re going to be gone,” said McCaul. “I’m a hunter, but I’m also a conservationist. I think those two go hand-in-hand.”

National estimates indicate passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would create 23,800 to 33,600 jobs and add $3.36 billion of economic output.

According to officials, the $1.4 billion to fund the act would come from existing revenues with no new taxes.

The trouble is this bill may not be a priority for Congress right now. It was introduced in April and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. It’s sitting there with no action taken since.

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