Opinion

Blackledge: Arizona wildlife plans must be more than just a PDF

Posted 6/24/22

Sadly, the list of struggling species in Arizona and nationwide goes on and on.

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Opinion

Blackledge: Arizona wildlife plans must be more than just a PDF

Posted

Sadly, the list of struggling species in Arizona and nationwide goes on and on.

Violet-crowned hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, bison, bottlenose dolphins, and many more species are hurting in at least one part of the country.

When they are identified as a species in need of assistance, states place them on something called a State Wildlife Action Plan.

The concept behind these action plans is that state wildlife agencies with boots on the ground are often best positioned to identify species on the decline, in need of habitat restoration, or otherwise requiring additional resources to protect them. Once wildlife experts note species in danger, state agencies must act to save them.

But here’s the catch. While Congress mandated the creation of wildlife action plans, the funding levels have been far too low to convert them from PDFs on a state biologist’s computer into effective wildlife protection tools. One might say the funding has been nearly as scarce as milkweed to the hungry caterpillar.

Enter, stage right, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. This bipartisan bill, with co-sponsorship from Arizona’s U.S. Sens. Sinema and Kelly, would send $1.4 billion per year to the states so that wildlife agencies can put their plans into action.

Last week, the U.S. House passed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act rising above the thorny, rancorous and partisan politics of Washington, D.C., presumably because it marries beliefs and philosophies of conservative and liberal thinking. It invests deeply in the survival and (hopefully) revival of species. It puts money primarily in the hands of state agencies, rather than the federal government.

To the extent that environmentalism is seen by some as aligning more with the left, and skepticism of a federal government as more of an underpinning of the right, this bill has it all.

But there’s more than political theory at play. Americans of all stripes — including those belonging to the “I Have No Interest in Politics” party — care deeply about the wildlife around us. Visit a zoo or aquarium, look around, and all types are inspired by the natural world.

That’s because our lives are richer when surrounded by nature. Relaxing in our backyards is better with birdsong. A hike in the woods is livelier with the sighting of deer or elk. Videos of mountain lions and bears on the prowl inspire awe (and fear).

It’s our duty to protect the natural world around us. Therefore, we must lean into efforts to save species on the decline and prevent new extinctions, knowing that too many species have already been lost and another 1,300 species in the U.S. face the threat of disappearing forever.

Congress needs to get this bill across the finish line and, in so doing, take a vitally important step in saving America’s wildlife.

Editor’s note: Steve Blackledge is the conservation director for Environment Arizona. Visit EnvironmentArizona.org.

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