The U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark wildlife bill — in a vote of 231 to 190 on Tuesday — that backs the conservation of endangered and threatened species, including hundreds in areas of the high plains and the enclave.
According to the US Geological Survey, there are currently more than 13,500 species “in greatest need of conservation” in the United States, while the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cites more than 1,300 “species of special concern” in the United States alone. Texas.
Among those in the area: the prairie chicken, dune sagebrush lizard, swift fox, garter snake and many species of bats, as well as the locally beloved black-tailed prairie dog, which has claimed a tourist destination in Lubbock’s MacKenzie Park and even landed in Lewis and Clark’s journals.
If enacted, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would award more than $1.3 billion annually to state wildlife departments, U.S. territories, and tribal nations to distribute among species conservation efforts.
The new law would amend the Pittman-Robertson Act — now known as the Federal Wildlife Restoration Assistance — that Congress approved 85 years ago to support declining populations of game species. Critics say the 1937 law does not provide sufficient funding for endangered non-game species.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would also serve as a supplemental bill to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which provides reactive support for species loss, said Meredith Longoria, assistant director of the wildlife division of Texas Parks & Wildlife. Department.
“(The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act) will be a game-changer and help us be much more proactive, instead of reactive, when it comes to protecting declining and at-risk plants, fish and wildlife,” said Longoria. “That would give us a much better chance of getting ahead of any federal protections needed to keep species from becoming extinct, so they won’t need those extra protections (in the Endangered Species Act).”
While the loss of individual species may seem minimal, Longoria said all species have a vital role in the ecosystem.
This includes everything from small-scale engineering of burrowing mammals to insect pollination abilities and shoreline protection from marine life. Longoria also noted the potential pharmaceutical benefits of rare and endangered plant species that may never be discovered if their populations continue to decline to extinction.
“It’s all connected, and we don’t always really know how it’s all connected,” Longoria said. “If one species goes extinct, we don’t know what kind of impact that might have on multiple species that depend on that single species. Those species that are not necessarily charismatic species, like the black bear, are just as important.
The US House version of the bill did not identify a funding source and drew criticism from several Republican Representatives who do not want to create a permanent spending program. Although 16 Republicans backed the House bill, U.S. Representative Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, was part of the majority of his party that voted against the bill.
The Senate proposal includes a suggestion to use funds from fines and fees that have been imposed on polluters and other violators of environmental damage.