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Oregon and Washington hope to receive wildlife conservation funding from bill moving forward in the US Senate

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A bill that could provide the most significant wildlife funding in 50 years is a little closer to becoming law, according to conservation groups. America’s Wildlife Rescue Act passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last week.

State wildlife agencies need more funding for the hundreds of species the agencies need to manage, according to conservation groups. In recent years, a large source of financing from hunting and fishing licenses has been insufficient.

Now, a bill passed by the US Congress could provide more than $1 billion each year to government agencies and tribes to save at-risk wildlife. The Washington and Oregon fish and wildlife departments can each receive more than $20 million a year.

“The kind of rescue work that states can do with this money is the kind of thing that isn’t being done right now,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of the Conservation Northwest group.

A small dark mammal.

File photo of a fisherman, a member of the weasel family. Congress can help state wildlife agencies protect more species like fishermen.

National Park Service / National Park Service

For example, about 4% of rescue efforts in Washington’s State Wildlife Action Plan, which includes 268 species, are now off the ground, Friedman said. The extra federal funding could help more government agencies reach more wildlife recovery priorities, he said.

Friedman said the extra funding could aid recovery projects such as the reintroduction of coyote-like fishermen into the Cascades in Washington and the restoration of the Canadian lynx in the Kettle River Range. He said both projects rely on a lot of private and innovative financing to stay afloat.

« These are great success stories, but if this law is passed, then this kind of business can happen without having to look for money elsewhere, » Friedman said.

He said the goal was to keep the species off the Endangered Species List, which he likened to an emergency room—expensive treatment, a little late.

“We want to keep our wildlife out of the ’emergency room’ by investing in conservation earlier,” Friedman said.

While Congress has made several passes in America’s Wildlife Rescue Act, Wildlands Network’s Oregon program manager Zach Schwartz said he thinks the bill might become law this time around.

However, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to fund the bill, he said.

In Oregon, the state wildlife agency is also suffering from funding issues, Schwartz said.

In 2016, a task force reported that the department needed about $50 million a year in additional funding to expand its conservation efforts. Oregon’s conservation strategy lists 294 wildlife species that need protection.

In addition, Schwartz said wildlife faces a range of threats, including climate change and urban sprawl, such as in Deschutes County, Oregon’s fastest-growing region.

“The more money we can devote to planning and adapting to these changes, the better,” Schwartz said.

Also, Friedman said there should be more rescue efforts soon to protect the wildlife.

“There is never a shortage of things that need to be done to secure the future of our wildlife,” Friedman said. « The best first step we can take for this is to pass America’s Wildlife Rescue Act. »

Next, the U.S. House and Senate versions of the bill will go to ground votes in each house.

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Written by mbenfoddil

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