Recovering America's Wildlife Act
Federal legislation titled The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) proposes to distribute over $1.3 billion annually to state, territorial and District of Columbia fish and wildlife agencies to implement State Wildlife Action Plans. This landmark legislation would provide dedicated predictable funding for conservation and management of thousands of species, many of which face declining populations. Effective sustained management can improve population trends and keep fish and wildlife species abundant and healthy.
Natural resources are a major driver of Florida’s economy, with fishing, wildlife viewing, boating, hunting and the seafood industry having a combined economic impact of about $42.8 billion and over 347,000 jobs. Florida also hosts over 100 million visitors a year, with many of them here to explore and enjoy the beauty of Florida’s wildlife and outdoors.
How would Florida Benefit?
In Florida, there are over six hundred Species of Greatest Conservation Need which are in decline or at risk of becoming imperiled in the future. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has worked with partners to develop a State Wildlife Action Plan. This plan already guides proactive conservation work to help address the needs of Florida wildlife. Funds from the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would significantly amplify these efforts.
Management includes programs and strategies designed to minimize known threats to species, improve conditions during key life-cycle phases, and increase knowledge to inform management (such as filling information gaps in basic biological needs). Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan identifies over 600 Species of Greatest Conservation Need that are in decline or at greatest risk of becoming imperiled in the future. Funding for this work will support the capacity needed within FWC and among partners to expand conservation efforts to more species by increasing long-term resources. For example, the striped newt population could be further enhanced by more direct management of ephemeral wetlands and by raising larvae and releasing them to increase their chance of survival.
With a growing human population in Florida, it is important that conservation and restoration of habitats continue. Lack of suitable fire, for example, continues to be one of the greatest threats to the state’s uplands, and fire strike teams have proven to be an efficient and effective means to address this threat on both public and private lands. Restoring freshwater and marine systems improves habitat for wildlife and benefits the people who depend on them. Increased funding for conservation actions such as fire strike teams and aquatic restoration will help declining wildlife dependent on these resources.
Numerous species of nonnative plants, freshwater fish, marine life, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been observed or are established in Florida. Many have become invasive and cause harm to native species, pose a threat to human health and safety, or are causing economic damage. Prevention of new introductions and establishment is the most cost-effective approach to managing nonnative species. More than 500 nonnative fish and wildlife species have been observed in Florida, of which 150 are estimated to be reproducing. Nonnative and invasive species are a significant threat to Florida’s wildlife and ecosystems and they continue to degrade habitat quality and disrupt essential behaviors of native wildlife. Funding would be used to reduce populations of species like the python and eradicate the most impactful species threatening Florida wildlife where possible, as well as focus on early detection and response actions.
Urban areas continue to expand, and our human population is becoming diverse. At the same time, fewer and fewer people are spending time outdoors. In Florida, providing opportunities for people to learn about, become engaged in fish and wildlife conservation and help create the ‘next generation that cares’ is a priority endeavor. The FWC offers a range of programs to build conservation appreciation and engagement. By expanding participation in conservation, Floridians may become better stewards of the land and our fish and wildlife resources, making more informed choices about their daily activities and helping influence others to cherish and enhance our natural heritage. As an example, with additional funding the FWC could increase the number of children reached though the Everglades and Suncoast Youth Conservation Centers.
Florida is the third most populous state in the nation and continues to grow and develop. With approximately 54% of undeveloped land area in private ownership, Florida’s conservation approach must include mechanisms to support and partner with private landowners, from agriculture and livestock to energy development and urban rooftops. New conservation approaches with innovative tools and strategies focused on private landowners need to be enhanced and better coordinated to account for evolving challenges in maintaining long-term conservation benefits. Comprehensive strategies will include improving partnerships, incentives and easements programs. Florida’s urban areas can provide essential habitat to many of Florida’s Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Expanding programs that support building habitat in urban areas is great for pollinators and birds.
How Can I Help?
If you are a business, institution, group, or non-profit organization, please consider joining the Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife to help demonstrate support for this effort is broad-based. Membership in the Alliance does not mean you endorse all activities, only that you support fish and wildlife conservation. Sign up electronically through the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies or by printing and mailing a membership form.