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New Bill Could Help Protect Florida's At-Risk Wildlife

Photo of Florida Panther with copy: Proposed federal law has bipartisan support in house. Would help protect endangered Florida wildlife

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Congress is considering a bill that would direct nearly $1.4 billion to fish and wildlife agencies. 

Introduced in the House by Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell and Nebraska Republican Jeff Fortenberry, the Recovering America's Wildlife Act aims to help states protect an estimated 12,000 species of fish and wildlife across the country. Preston Robertson, executive director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said Florida is unique with its semitropical climate growing plants, animals and insects that exist only here. But, he said, they are being squeezed out by rapid development.

"And all of our water quality issues, blue-green algae and red tide, we need to do something to make sure that - it's over 1,000 species that have been listed by the state that are in danger of becoming extirpated from the state," Robertson said.

The funding would help Florida implement its action plan designed to monitor species' health and pinpoint which species and and habitats need to be conserved before they become rare and costly to protect. 

The bill has 75 co-sponsors, including Reps. Charlie Crist, Matt Gaetz and four other Florida lawmakers. It now needs a vote by the House Natural Resources and Budget committees.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said even if wildlife agencies know which species are at risk, they can't carry out planned management and conservation strategies without consistent funding. That's what this bill would provide.

"By acting earlier, we can avoid millions of dollars - hundreds of millions of dollars - of costly recovery efforts. We can avoid years of regulatory and litigation fights by doing things more proactively," O'Mara said. "So, I think that's the biggest difference, right? It's really focused on this idea of preventative measures early, so we avoid the 'emergency room' later."

O'Mara also pointed out the outdoor recreation industry relies on healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations. The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in 2016, the outdoor recreation industry generated more than $400 billion in economic activity.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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