It isn’t every day that a bill can be proposed at the national level without becoming polarizing. However, it looks like a certain piece of conservation legislation is doing just that. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a bipartisan bill written by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt and New Mexico Democrat Senator Martin Heinrich.
Although previous attempts to introduce the legislation had been unsuccessful, the bill is currently being considered by the U.S. Senate after successfully passing through the House of Representatives in June. Senate Democrats and as many as 16 Republicans have voiced their support for what would increase funding for conservation efforts across various affected states, making an eventual passage likely, barring any unforeseen setbacks.
The bill would allocate a proposed $1.3 billion in federal funding each year to a group of states and federally-recognized Tribal communities for purposes related to species conservation.
These operations, “Wildlife Action Plans” subject to initial federal approval, seek to protect local at-risk species through several methods. Some include restoring damaged habitats, gaining control of threatening and invasive species, reconnecting specific interrupted migration routes, and combating emerging diseases.
While it won’t solve the issue overnight, the proposal would provide more than one billion dollars each year to address the endangerment crisis occurring across America’s wildlife populations. Currently, one-third of all species living in this country are considered at risk of extinction.
As it currently stands, the legislation’s passage is made even more likely by recent polling, which shows broad support for the funding regardless of political affiliation. A September poll from Data for Progress surveyed roughly 1,200 Americans deemed to be likely voters and found support for the act to be overwhelmingly high. Eighty-six percent of respondents support the bill, a 2 percent uptick from a similar survey in 2021, including 92% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 85% of independents.
“I was initially surprised at how high the support for RAWA was in the survey,” said Mark Damian Duda, who works as executive director for Responsive Management. “But the truth is that, over three decades of survey research, we’ve seen that Americans consistently back conservation issues.”
Duda notes that statistical support for Americans backing conservation measures has historically been very high, pointing to how nearly three-quarters of environment-related ballot measures have passed in the states via referendum over the last several election cycles.
“When these issues are presented directly to the people, Americans tend to vote consistently in favor of conservation,” he said.
Responsive Management conducted a similar survey in August, instead breaking down respondents into various categories that weren’t expressly related to party affiliation. The poll looked at 1,002 respondents aged 18 and older and used several contact methods — cell phones, landlines, and online video calls — to ensure a diversity of demographics. It found a similarly positive response, with broad support regardless of age, gender, and level of education. Support was high across all area types, whether urban, suburban, or rural demographics.
“The results could not be clearer: The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is one of the few bills that can unite this Congress and the American people,” said Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation vice president for communications. Opinions like Saccone’s are hardly an exception throughout the sector, where the bill is widely seen as a game-changer for how states can address species populations.
“Something we understand well as wildlife managers and representatives of state agencies is that wildlife conservation transcends party politics,” said Ron Regan, executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “This polling demonstrates that.”