Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: Bill Would Boost Bird Funding


The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide states and territories with funding to protect over 800 bird species. Note: noncontiguous states and territories are not drawn to scale. Graphic by Jillian Ditner. Source: USGS National Look at Species of Greatest Conservation Need as Reported in State Wildlife Action Plans. Macaulay Library photos, left to right: Jim Hully, David Simpson, Russ Morgan, Steve Kolbe, Peggy Scanlan, Doug Cooper, Bryan Calk, David Gabay, Thomas Berriman, Dale Bonk, Kevin Dailey, Tanner Martin, Anne Ruben, Sherrie Quillen, Jim Easton, David True, Bente Torvund, S S Cheema, Christoph Moning, David McCorquodale, Peter Brannon. View larger image.

Originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Living Bird magazine; updated December 2021. Subscribe now.

[Update: In 2021, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was reintroduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in the 117th United States Congress. A counterpart Senate bill was introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).]

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives offers a new funding stream for state wildlife programs—including efforts to help hundreds of bird species in decline that need urgent conservation action.

Dubbed the “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” (or HR 4647), the bill proposed by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Debbie Dingell of Michigan would dedicate $1.3 billion of preexisting federal revenues annually toward conservation in all 50 states and five territories.

Game species in the U.S. currently benefit from two revenue streams that come from hunting—the Pittman–Robertson excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition and the federal Duck Stamp program. RAWA would create the first dedicated funding stream for nongame wildlife. Without asking more of taxpayers or businesses, RAWA funds would access a fraction of the current revenues that the government already receives into the general fund of the U.S. Treasury, but it would grow federal funding for state and tribal wildlife conservation grants by 2,000%—a gamechanger for locally led habitat conservation programs. (Find more details about how RAWA could benefit wildlife, improve infrastructure, and help local economies, in this opinion piece by Dr. Amanda Rodewald, director of the Cornell Lab’s Center for Avian Population Studies.)

Game species in the U.S. currently benefit from two revenue streams that come from hunting—the Pittman–Robertson excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition and the federal Duck Stamp program. RAWA would create the first dedicated funding stream for nongame wildlife. Without tapping into taxpayer money, RAWA funds would access a fraction of the revenues the government receives from energy and mineral leases on federal lands and waters.




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The act aims to help stem population declines for more than 12,000 species of fish and wildlife, including more than 800 birds, in an effort to keep them off the endangered species list. The idea for a new conservation funding stream came from a national panel of business and conservation leaders chaired by Bass Pro Shops founder John L. Morris and former Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal. (Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick also participated in the panel, along with executives from the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Audubon, Shell Oil Company, Hess Corporation, and Toyota.) Learn more about the bill.



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