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Bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Receives Key Hearing

WASHINGTON (Dec. 8, 2021) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered remarks on his Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee legislative hearing.

The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act invests in proactive, on-the-ground conservation work led by states, territories, and Tribal nations to support the long-term health of fish and wildlife and their habitat all across America. These locally-driven, science-based strategies would restore populations of species with the greatest conservation need.

Senator Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the bipartisan legislation alongside U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in July. Since introduction, the legislation has gained significant momentum with 32 bipartisan sponsors and cosponsors, and is backed by over 60 Tribes and 1,500 organizations representing state fish and wildlife agencies, sportsmen and women, conservation groups, and industry associations and businesses. 

Senators Heinrich and Blunt’s legislation is cosponsored in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Angus King (I-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).

A copy of the bill is here. 

Senator Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito, and distinguished members of this Committee:

Thank you for allowing me to share a few words about the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act—or RAWA.

I’ve been proud to team up with my Republican colleague from Missouri, Senator Roy Blunt, on this bipartisan legislation.

And I’m grateful for the support of the 16 Republican and 16 Democratic co-sponsors, including many members of this Committee.

As well as the support from the administration on this issue, including their testimony in support of the House version of this legislation.

RAWA would establish a robust and reliable federal funding stream for collaborative, proactive, voluntary, on-the-ground conservation work.  

Consistent funding support has long been the missing piece in scaling up the type of recovery projects that have proven effective recovering wildlife and plant species to healthy levels. 

We’re just coming off of elk season in New Mexico, and I'm happy to say that my freezer is full.

But elk were extinct in New Mexico a century ago.

It is thanks to previous generations of conservationists and sportsmen and women that I have the privilege of interacting with this amazing and beautiful animal.

I am indebted to people like Aldo Leopold, Elliot Barker, and federal, state, Tribal leaders whose actions led to the restoration of elk, mule deer and pronghorn populations in my home state and species like wild turkey, waterfowl, and white-tailed deer all across America.  

The abundance of many species that we hunt and fish today is the direct result of collaborative work inspired by those previous generations of Americans and financed by bedrock conservation laws like Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson. 

Yet despite the incredible successes of these programs, particularly with game species and sportfish, and the successes of the Endangered Species Act in preventing hundreds of species from going extinct, it’s been clear for decades that too many species are still declining or even heading towards extinction.

Without enough resources, our state, local, and Tribal wildlife agencies have been forced to pick and choose which species are worthy of their attention.

And as a result, more than 12,000 species are currently identified as species of greatest conservation need.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change this paradigm and save thousands of species with a solution that matches the magnitude of the challenge.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act offers us a path forward.

RAWA will fuel locally-driven, science-based projects that will restore healthy fish and wildlife habitat and robust wildlife populations.

These projects will create substantial economic benefits, including good-paying jobs in rural communities.

They will preserve outdoor recreation activities like hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing that support millions of additional jobs all across our country.

And they will save the federal government and the private sector tens of billions of dollars by saving species before they need “emergency room” measures to survive.

Before I finish, I want to emphasize just how bipartisan this issue is.

This committee has proven that we can still pass bipartisan conservation provisions within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in the American Conservation Enhancement Act, and in the Water Resources Development Act. 

Last year, many of us here helped to pass the historic Great American Outdoors Act into law, which is already helping us tackle the longstanding infrastructure backlog at our national parks and public lands. 

As one of the most important wildlife bills in decades, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will allow us to make similar historic progress on species recovery and wildlife habitat. 

I’m proud of the coalition of sportsmen and sportswomen, conservationists, scientists, states, Tribes, and wildlife advocates who are calling on Congress to pass RAWA.

I have letters of support that I would like to submit for the record representing all fifty states, Tribes, and nearly 2,000 organizations across the country, such as the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the Boone and Crockett Club, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, NRDC, the Audubon Society, and the Nature Conservancy.

I’ll close by saying that I want my grandchildren to experience the same wonder I had as a child catching leopard frogs and watching fireflies light up the dark.

I hope we can pass on to them the full complement of our natural heritage—from bison to bumblebees—as well as traditions like hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

That’s what this is all about.

Thank you.