|Harrisburg, PA – A Continuing Resolution (HR 1) that recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives would eliminate funding for the State Wildlife Grant program, the nation’s most cost-effective program for preventing fish and wildlife from becoming endangered. In letters to, and personal visits with, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is urging Congress to restore and continue funding to this vital program.
“Despite historical successes in bringing many fish and wildlife species back from the brink of extinction, other species at risk have continued to decline as evidenced by the staggering numbers listed under the federal Endangered Species Act,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “The State Wildlife Grant program, now in its 11th year, has served as a stable federal funding source for implementing congressionally required State Wildlife Action Plans in every state and territory, including Pennsylvania.”
“In the Commonwealth, the Commission has received approximately $8 million since 2002,” added Mr. Arway. “This has been leveraged with at least an additional $8 million – more than doubling Congressional investments for over $16 million in timely, meaningful conservation work. We cannot afford to lose that support now.”
Each State Wildlife Action Plan assesses the health of the state’s wildlife and habitats and outlines the actions needed to conserve species of greatest conservation need and the full array of wildlife over the long term. Before State Wildlife Grants, the Fish and Boat Commission did not have the resources necessary to devote adequate attention to non-game species.
With the help of these grants, the PFBC has been able to be much more proactive in gathering and using data about vulnerable species, including actually removing species from the state threatened and endangered species lists as a result of increased knowledge about the distribution and abundance of species. This result is both good for the environment and good for businesses, since it is more cost-effective to work around common species than to deal with them once they are threatened or endangered. Once a species is listed as threatened or endangered, the Government Accountability Office estimates that the cost of recovery of a single species can exceed $150 million.
State Wildlife Grants are also particularly significant in supporting the PFBC’s work on environmental review and project implementation such as small dam removals. Mr. Arway stressed that losing State Wildlife Grant support would curtail the PFBC’s ability to deliver timely project reviews, recommendations to applicants, and on-the-ground projects.
“We are already faced with having to do more with less as fishing license revenues decline at the same time that our permit review work has risen - and continues to rise - as a result of activities like the Marcellus shale development,” said Mr. Arway. “State Wildlife Grants are the one reliable source of funding that we have to try to keep pace with the ever-increasing permit review load.”
“Even in these difficult financial times when we all must shoulder some of the burden, we still need to ensure that fish and wildlife and their habitats are conserved for the benefits they bring to Americans through cleaner and healthier environments and the legacy we leave for future generations,” he added. “Congressional funding for State Wildlife Grants also goes hand-in-hand with job creation and economic sustainability since more than half a million U.S. jobs center around wildlife conservation and wildlife-related recreation. This includes Pennsylvania’s $3.4 billion fishing and boating industry.”
Funding for State Wildlife Grants is supported by the Teaming with Wildlife coalition, a national coalition of 6,300 conservation organizations and nature-based businesses including state fish and wildlife agencies, anglers, boaters, hunters, hikers, and other conservationists.
For more information about State and Wildlife Grants and State Wildlife Action Plans, please visit www.teaming.com.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.