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Legislation to help struggling wildlife to be reintroduced in next Congress

Lester Graham
The monarch butterfly is an example of a species that is struggling, but not listed as threatened or endangered of extinction. Dingell wants a law that will help declining species before they're listed.

Some leading conservation groups were disappointed that Congress did not approve legislation to help struggling wildlife populations. The sponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act says she will reintroduce the legislation in the next session of Congress.

Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell says she’s introduced it every session since she was first elected eight years ago.

Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
Democrat Debbie Dingell has introduced the legislation to help struggling species every session since she was elected.

“The first Medicare bill was introduced in 1940 and it took to 1965. You stay focused. You don’t give up. You get enough people and you eventually get it done. And that’s my intention.”

The nearly $1.5 billion dollar program would be used to help species that are declining, but not yet listed as threatened or endangered. In Michigan, that’s things such as common loons, foxes, snowshoe hares, and monarch butterflies. Michigan's annual share would be about $26 million.

Right now, protections don’t really kick in until a species is listed as threatened or endangered. At that point, it means the species is nearing extinction.

One conservationist likened it to not treating an illness until you have to go to the emergency room.

It looked like the legislation would be included in the recently passed $1.7 trillion spending plan. There were 240 co-sponsors in the House and Senate. A good number of them were Republicans.

But then there was a stumble.

“The United States Senate where bills go to die. I shouldn’t say it quite that blunt, but I am being that blunt,” Dingell said.

Despite the defeat, she’s optimistic that the plan to help species at risk will have a good chance in the next Congress.

Lester Graham
Declining species such as the fox would be helped under the Recovering America's Wildlife Act if a future Congress passes it and the president signs it.

“Well, I had a lot of Republicans that were on it this time. And Bruce Westerman, who will be the Chair of the Natural Resources Committee, already said to me, Debbie, I want to work with you on Wildlife next year.”

Westerman is a Republican Congressman from Arkansas.

Many leading conservation groups plan to lobby for the legislation once it's reintroduced. It's been called the most important piece of legislation for wildlife that's been presented in 50 years.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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