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Wildlife bill could change Oregon conservation forever

Dec. 19, 2022, 9:47 a.m.
Topic: Conservation and species recovery
A pygmy rabbit being held in two hands

Fate of thousands of at-risk species could be determined by passage of ‘RAWA’

Congress is on the verge of making a critical decision about the future of thousands of species — from gray whales to butterflies — as the window closes to pass the monumental Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

Wildlife agencies and organizations across the U.S. are calling on Congress to include this once-in-a-generation, bipartisan bill in the Omnibus spending package. The bill which has been called the most significant piece of conservation legislation since the Endangered Species Act, already passed the House and has 47 cosponsors in the Senate.

Nearly 300 of Oregon’s species — from wolverines to bumblebees — are at risk due to habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and other factors. These include species often considered “common” that are quietly vanishing.

RAWA would provide nearly $1.4 billion annually in much-needed conservation funding to states and tribes, including an estimated $25 million for Oregon. Additionally, $750 million would also go toward establishing the Endangered Species Recovery and Habitat Conservation Legacy Fund, used to get species off the federal endangered list.

The act is supported by Oregon Representatives Bonamici, Blumenauer, DeFazio and Schrader and Senators Wyden and Merkley.

“Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will give us a powerful tool to keep wildlife populations healthy for generations to come,” said Heidi Rahn, Oregon Zoo director. “It would be a game changer for conservation as we know it, and we thank the Oregon delegation for getting it this far and urge them to do everything they can to pass it into law this Congress.”

"From Great Gray Owls to wolverines, a lack of consistent funding has been a major obstacle in the effort to protect and restore Oregon's wildlife and their habitat," said Danielle Moser, Wildlife Program Manager for Oregon Wild.  "Recovering America's Wildlife Act, together with a companion bill in the Oregon legislature, would be a giant step forward in protecting the fish and wildlife that all Oregonians treasure."

“At the state and local levels, RAWA would fund the essential work needed to proactively protect and enhance fish and wildlife populations in Oregon,” said Curt Melcher, ODFW Director. “The status quo for almost a century has been a reactive approach to conservation and that just doesn’t work anymore,” added Melcher.

The Oregon Zoo Foundation is leading efforts to fund critical needs of the zoo. To contribute, go to Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world.