As Oregonians, we take pride in our beautiful landscapes, roaring rivers, craggy mountains, and diverse fish and wildlife species. It’s what makes Oregon so special. However, to ensure we have abundant and thriving fish and wildlife (and habitat) for generations to come, we have to invest in proactive conservation now.
That’s where Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) comes in. RAWA is legislation being considered by Congress to invest $1.3 billion into state wildlife agencies and tribes for wildlife conservation and recovery programs. What does that mean for Oregon?
If RAWA passes, it could mean an allocation of nearly $25 million annually for Oregon’s wildlife conservation programs like the Oregon Conservation Strategy and the Nearshore Strategy. Given that these programs have been woefully underfunded for far too long, an infusion of funds to boost on-the-ground wildlife recovery efforts is just what we need.
To put a finer point on it, an Oregon Public Broadcasting story from 2016 revealed that the team responsible for the state’s 600 nongame wildlife species - roughly 88% of all species - only receives about 2% of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) total budget. While those numbers may be a bit higher now, the point is still the same: programs that protect and recover our state’s wildlife and habitat lack sufficient funds to do so. RAWA would help solve this problem. It would also simultaneously advance the goal of ensuring ODFW prioritizes their conservation mission to protect and enhance all species in Oregon, like the western painted turtle and Oregon spotted frog, not just those state wildlife agencies can sell hunting tags for.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the main provisions of the legislation:
- Funds must be used to implement and enhance Congressionally mandated state wildlife action plans, which for Oregon, means the Oregon Conservation and Nearshore Strategies.
- Funds must be used to recover threatened and endangered species or candidate species for listing (requirement is that at LEAST 15% of total funds have to be spent on this).
- Funds may be used for wildlife conservation education and wildlife-associated recreation projects, especially in historically underserved communities.
- For Oregon to receive RAWA funds, the state must put up a 25% match (about $17 million/biennium). If you add it all up, that brings the total to about $60 million per biennium to implement wildlife conservation programs!
- The Senate version of the bill (S. 2372) takes funds from natural resource damage fees paid by entities and corporations in violation of environmental laws and regulations to pay for RAWA.
We cannot continue to ignore the mounting challenges facing our fish and wildlife. Passage of RAWA would be an important (and big) step forward toward mitigating further species and habitat decline by investing much needed resources into wildlife conservation.
Meet some of the amazing animals that would benefit from the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act!
With its distinctive yellow and red markings the Western painted turtle cuts a striking figure. Although there are four species of painted turtles in North America, this is the only one native to the Pacific Northwest.
Threats: habitat loss from fragmentation, and the encroachment of invasive aquatic plants, road mortality, predation, competition with invasive turtles, and human interference.
How would RAWA help? If RAWA passes, the Western painted turtle would receive enough funding to recover habitat and population numbers in order to keep the species off the endangered species list!
Click here to learn more about the Western painted turtle.
The Western meadowlark may be one of the most recognizable birds in Oregon with its coveted spot as Oregon’s official state bird as of 1927. This distinctive bird is an indicator species, meaning that they are used to infer the health of prairie ecosystems.
Threats: Nest predation, human disturbance, and loss, degradation, and fragmentation of grasslands (99% of native prairie and grasslands in the Willamette Valley have been lost).
How can RAWA help? Due to the vast amount of lost habitat, it is even more important to be proactive with the species recovery and management, which funds from RAWA would be able to support.
Click here to learn more about the Western meadowlark.
The Oregon spotted frog, named aptly, for its black spotted markings, is a medium sized frog native to Oregon. These frogs are very aquatic animals (even compared to other amphibians) and love the large and warm-water wetland environments, ponds, lakes and sloughs.
Threats: Reduction of habitat from human activity, including cattle grazing (78% of its historical range has been lost, although estimates show that 90% is more likely), and competition with invasive species.
If RAWA passes, the funding from this bill could make all the difference for the species’ recovery!
Learn more about the Oregon spotted frog here.
This charismatic and elusive mammal is a forest dwelling member of the Mustelidae family, which also includes marten, otter, weasel and mink among others. It is native to the beautiful forests of North America and is perhaps best known for its mastery of hunting the most prickly prey in Oregon: the porcupine.
Threats: Fragmentation of habitat from logging, wildfires, tree diseases, and climate change, human caused mortality from exposure to toxins.
Since the fisher is a sensitive listed species, even the death of a few fishers can have a devastating impact on the species and its recovery as a whole. That’s why it is so important that RAWA passes to provide fishers, and their forest habitat, with the support they need to make a full recovery.