Popular Wildlife Conservation Bill to Aid States Passes House

  • Measure would dedicate $1.4 billion per year for projects
  • Senate panel advanced companion legislation in April

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The House passed bipartisan wildlife conservation legislation which would establish roughly $14 billion over the next decade for species recovery and habitat.

The vote on Tuesday was 231-190.

The measure (H.R. 2773) would dedicate approximately $1.4 billion per year for states, tribes, and territories to identify and manage conservation projects. The money would come from penalties collected for environmental violations rather than through annual congressional appropriations. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would amend the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.

Photographer: Lauren Owens Lambert/AFP via Getty Images
Dozens of endangered cold-stunned sea turtles from Mass Audubon on Cape Cod were transported in banana boxes inside a cargo plane in December 2020 from Massachusetts to Texas.

Advocates of the bill consider it a clear follow-up to the 2020 Great American Outdoors Act (Public Law 116-152). That law, which garnered robust support in Congress, made permanent the money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addressed the multibillion-dollar backlog of infrastructure projects on public lands.

“This bold investment in our wildlife will pay significant dividends,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), sponsor of H.R. 2773, said. It’s important for conservation as well as to support hunters, anglers, and the robust outdoor recreation economy, she said, adding that every US congressional district will benefit.

State conservation agencies have identified more than 12,000 wildlife and plant species in need of greater protection. More than 1,600 species are endangered or threatened, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

BGOV Bill Summary: H.R. 2773, Wildlife Conservation Funding

Questions on Funding

The House adopted eight amendments to H.R. 2773, including a measure from Michigan Reps. Dan Kildee (D) and Peter Meijer (R) that would allow efforts to control and prevent invasive species and disease to be eligible for money in the bill.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in April advanced its companion legislation (S. 2372) in a bipartisan 15-5 vote. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are the lead sponsors in the Senate.

“Today is a good momentum step,” Heinrich said in a brief hallway interview. “I don’t have a floor commitment yet but we’re continuously working with leadership to get there.”

The office of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) didn’t immediately respond to a question about when the Senate floor might consider the legislation.

Some Republicans have expressed concern about the legislation’s funding mechanism, calling it mandatory spending with no offset. The Congressional Budget Office estimated H.R. 2773 would increase direct spending by $12.7 billion between 2022 and 2032.

“At at time of rampant inflation, it would be irresponsible” to add further to the national debt through H.R. 2773, said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.). He also criticized the legislation for having no sunset provision.

On the Senate side, Heinrich said the legislation’s advocates are working with all the relevant committees on the funding mechanism. “I’m not really all that doctrinaire about how we pay for it, but to get the kind of bipartisan vote that it deserves, that’s an important piece,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kellie Lunney in Washington at klunney@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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