Heinrich and Blunt introduce bill to fund wildlife conservation

US Senator Martin Heinrich has described wildlife conservation as something that can bring people together – something he says is underscored by a bipartisan Senate bill.

“Whether you grew up in New Mexico or Missouri, you remember the first fish you catch, you remember the butterflies in your garden,” Heinrich said at a press conference announcing the legislation. He added that these species are not as common as they once were.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which Heinrich is presenting with Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, would provide $ 1.3 billion per year to states and $ 97.5 million to tribes to implement projects identified in the plans. action for wildlife that will help keep species off the endangered list and recover those already on the list.

Sponsors and promoters have described it as “the largest and most significant investment in wildlife and habitat conservation in half a century”.

The projects are primarily guided by the state’s wildlife action plans and Heinrich said he sees this as a way to address the issues identified rather than a tool to investigate the causes of biodiversity decline. States update their wildlife action plans every ten years, and New Mexico’s plan was completed in 2016.

Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation and president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, said that in Missouri, the focus is on prairie habitat. This could include additional cost sharing for habitat restoration on private land or it could fund best practice research, she said.

She said the legislation will expand the tools in the toolkit for state fishing and wildlife agencies and conservation departments.

The decline in biodiversity is well documented. Scientists say the United States has lost nearly a third of its bird population since 1970.

Heinrich recalled the bobwhite quail he used to hear when he was young in Missouri, a small land bird that also inhabit a strip of land in eastern New Mexico.

“I remember the sound of Bobwhite quail growing up and how ubiquitous it was and how strange it has been the last few years to go back to visit my family and not hear it like it used to be,” a- he declared. “And that’s what it is. We will reverse the trend.

There are 235 animals listed as species in greatest need of conservation in the New Mexico Wildlife Action Plan. These creatures are not necessarily listed as endangered or threatened. The wildlife action plan states that a species most needed for conservation has at least one of the following characteristics: declining population, likely to decline disproportionately over the next ten years, endemic, isolated from other populations of the same species or crucial function of the ecosystem.

Some of these animals have received a lot of attention, such as the Gila trout, the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the Mexican wolf, the pecos puppy, the yellow-billed cuckoo, and the Mexican spotted owl. The spotted owl has shut down logging operations, the jumping mouse has limited grazing options for livestock, and the Mexican wolf’s recovery effort has not always been welcomed by ranchers concerned about predation.

Others like the Ruidoso snail, the Jemez mountain salamander, the isopod Socorro, the desert massasauga, the eastern barking frog, the lucifer hummingbird and the peacock Sangre de Cristo may not be so well known. .

New Mexico’s Wildlife Action Plan identifies a variety of threats species face, including urban expansion, energy development, habitat loss, recreation, climate change, pollution, invasive species and other factors listed in the action plan.

The action plan describes various efforts that could be made to help species most in need of conservation. This could include reconnecting fragmented water systems, controlling invasive species, using prescribed burns to improve forest health, reintroducing key species like beavers, plugging and rehabilitating well sites. of abandoned oil and gas, reducing shrub encroachment on prairies and minimizing ash runoff into streams after a forest fire.

The legislation encourages collaboration with private owners and the use of citizen science techniques.

Complementary legislation was introduced in the US House of Representatives by US Representatives Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, and Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska.

“This bill will transform wildlife conservation in New Mexico, protecting our unique species from the Gila monster to the bighorn sheep,” Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said in a press release. .

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