A federal bill with sizeable bipartisan support aims to give states money to protect wildlife in order to prevent costly federal protections and restrictions for endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

The “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act,” introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, of Missouri, and Martin Heinrich, of New Mexico, would allocate $1.3 billion annually to share among fish and wildlife agencies to manage fish and wildlife species of greatest conservation need.

The bill would give the Indiana Department of Natural Resources about $18 million a year to help protect the more than 150 species the agency considers species of greatest need in the state, including the endangered Indiana bat, whooping crane, hellbender salamander, and many other animal species.

Currently, the state mainly depends on about $900,000 yearly in federal grants and voluntary contributions to the Indiana Nongame Wildlife Fund to cover the state’s wildlife conservation programs.

The bill is supported by dozens of senators and the governors of five Great Lakes states, including Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the other governors signed a letter in support of the act.

“This legislation provides a solution for one of America’s greatest threats — the decline of our fish and wildlife and their natural habitats, and what this means for people and our economy,” the governors wrote.

“It costs the American public hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to recover threatened and endangered species, costs that could be avoided or greatly reduced if we prevent fish and wildlife from needing these ‘emergency room’ measures in the first place. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is built upon the premise that the best way to save America’s wildlife is through collaborative, proactive and voluntary work before species are in trouble.”

The emission of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, has trapped heat in the atmosphere, changing the earth’s climate, resulting in rising average annual temperatures, changes in the patterns in which rain falls, increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and many other changes.

Climate change effects and other human activity, like land development, have resulted in more species being threatened with extinction than ever before in human history.

Over a million plant and animal species could go extinct by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels. 

In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 23 species from the federal endangered species list due to extinction. The agency also identified 260 migratory birds in need of conservation, about 50 of which are frequently found in Indiana.

The bill is supported by conservation organizations like the Izaak Walton League and the National Audubon Society

The bill will be considered by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. A similar bill is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

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