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Conservation Recovering America's Wildlife Act

The proposed Recovering America's Wildlife Act legislation was reintroduced April 22, 2021 in celebration of Earth Day. This legislation s based on recommendations of the 2015 Blue Ribbon Panel for Conserving America’s Wildlife. Details of the legislation can be found on the Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies website:

The federal Recovering Americas Wildlife Act would dedicate up to $27 million annually to fully implement Montana’s State Wildlife Action plan, increase opportunities for wildlife associated recreation and advance wildlife conservation education programs. Passage of this bill would benefit all Montanans by boosting local economies, and providing opportunities for future generations to see amazing wildlife, live surrounded by healthy wildlife habitat and enjoy the outdoors.

As proposed the bill would dedicate up to $1.3 billion annually to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program. These funds would provide state fish and wildlife agencies with the resources needed to fully implement State Wildlife Action Plans, which are designed to conserve over 12,000 species of greatest conservation need.

Under the current proposal, Montana’s portion of the funding could amount to $27 million annually, with a required non-federal match of 25%. Funds could be used for fish and wildlife conservation, wildlife conservation education programs, and wildlife associated recreation projects. Working with landowners, partner agencies and non-government organizations would be critical to identify high priority, cooperative projects and to explore sources of non-federal match. Passage of the Recovering America's Wildlife Act would not impact Montana’s current allocation of Pittman-Robertson or Dingell Johnson funds.

What does the bill do?

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act establishes a 21st Century, proactive funding model for the conservation of fish and wildlife. It provides $1.3 billion per year for the state wildlife agencies to do proactive, non-regulatory fish and wildlife conservation. It also includes $97.5 million for tribal fish and wildlife managers to conserve fish and wildlife on tribal lands and waters. It provides for a modern enhancement in how we finance the full array of diverse fish and wildlife conservation for current and future generations before they become more rare and costly to protect. States would be responsible for a 25% non-federal match ($440 million) that would spur voluntary, incentive-based and on-the-ground partnerships to implement the needed proactive conservation work by state fish and wildlife agencies.

  • The bill will redirect $1.3 billion from the federal treasury to be dedicated to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program, an authorized subaccount under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program, to conserve the full array of fish and wildlife. Funds would come from the federal share of the revenues, and nothing in the bill would alter the timing, method or process for the collection of revenues. Funds would be apportioned annually to the state fish and wildlife agencies based on a formula of roughly 50% proportion of land area and 50% proportion of population.

  • States would use these funds to effectively implement their congressionally required State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAP) – these are proactive, comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies unique to each state and developed with participation from the public which examine the health of and recommend actions to conserve fish, wildlife and vital habitats. States identify species of greatest conservation need and prioritize species, habitats, state-led projects and expenditures under the program. States could also use these funds on wildlife conservation education and wildlife-associated recreation, up to 15% of the entire allocation

  • States may use funds to manage, control and prevent invasive species and nuisance species as well as other threats to state species of greatest conservation need; on private lands and waters without any requirement for access by the public; and allow private land easements to be eligible for non-federal match. It clarifies in current law that academic institutions and Tribes may partner with the states on the implementation of projects.

How can state fish and wildlife agencies use these funds?

Funds shall be used to

  • Conserve and manage on state and private lands the full array of diverse fish and wildlife species that are identified as state species of greatest conservation need and their habitats.
  • Not less than an average of 15% over a 5-year period of the allocated funding must be spent to assist in the recovery of federally listed, candidate or species being considered for listing under the ESA.
  • Work with private landowners to implement voluntary conservation and management actions is allowed without requiring public access.
  • Conduct research, monitoring, restoration, and management actions needed to understand and reverse population declines.


Funds may be used to

  • Create and implement wildlife conservation education* programs and projects, including public outreach intended to foster natural resource stewardship.**
  • Advance wildlife-associated recreation* projects intended to meet the demand for outdoor activities associated with wildlife.**
  • Address identified threats and risks to state species of greatest conservation need like invasive species, nuisance species, pathogens, and diseases.
  • Manage a species of greatest conservation need whose range is shared with a foreign government and the habitat of such species.
  • Protect and conserve a species of greatest conservation need and the habitat of such species through directly related law enforcement activities.


*Not more than an average of 15% over a 5-year period of the allocated funding may be spent on wildlife conservation education and wildlife-associated recreation projects.

** There is no requirement to create a comprehensive strategy for this type of work. 


Funds may not be used for

  • Education efforts, projects, or programs that promote or encourage opposition to the regulated taking of fish and wildlife.


What's going on in Montana?

The attached report highlights just a few of the great conservation successes that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and its partners have been able to achieve under past funding scenarios along with ideas for projects that could be priorities for new funding.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Nongame Program strives to conserve wildlife and habitat while also increasing support and appreciation for nongame wildlife. The 2017 program report highlights the scope and diversity of work conducted to meet program objectives. This type of work would gain significant support if new funds were allocated to Montana Fish, Wildlife and parks and for cooperative work with partners.

The Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies prepared fact sheets for each state highlighting some of the great, collaborative successes of the past.

Arctic Grayling

A diverse group of folks calling themselves the Big Hole Watershed Committee adopted a drought management plan that called for voluntary curtailments of irrigation water use and angling when the river dropped below target levels. The introduction of a relatively new USFWS program called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or CCAA, in 2005 proved the perfect tool to get conservation measures on the ground to jumpstart the grayling’s recovery. The agreements created site-specific conservation plans tailor made to mesh with a rancher’s operation to protect riparian habitat, improve in-stream flows, protect fish passage and keep fish from being lost in irrigation ditches. In return, ranchers who signed onto the program received peace of mind knowing they’d be protected should a judge decide that Arctic grayling belong on the endangered species list. Today, there are 33 ranching families involved in the program that’s been instrumental in doubling grayling populations since its inception.

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter swans were classified as Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation need in Montana’s original State Wildlife Action Plan. The habitat needed by nesting trumpeter swans includes the Tier 1 community types of greatest conservation need; wetland and riparian. Since 2004, FWP, the Blackfoot Challenge, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and a host of partners including private landowners have been working cooperatively to restore trumpeter swans to wetlands in the Blackfoot watershed. The goal of the program to restore the population until seven pairs of swans successfully fledge cygnets, or baby swans, for two consecutive years. 2011 marked the first year trumpeter swans successfully nested and fledged cygnets in the Blackfoot watershed for the first time in potentially two centuries. Since then, the population has continued to rebound. This spring, Blackfoot wetlands hosted a record number of 13 Trumpeter Swan pairs, five of which produced 20 cygnets.

Golden Eagles

Concern over declining golden eagle populations in North America has been growing over the past decade. Some nesting populations in the intermountain west have been documented to be in decline in association with reductions in native habitat and in some cases prey populations. To get better Montana-specific population information for this species, conservation partners prioritized golden eagle nest surveys beginning in 2012. During three years of surveys, many regions of the state were extensively surveyed and golden eagle nests were found in greater number than expected. In 2015 alone, 80 active nests were found in central and eastern Montana during a search of the highest quality habit. Having more knowledge on where eagle nests are allows agencies to provide more informed management recommendations to developers such as wind energy companies. Knowing we have a large and well distributed population of nesting golden eagles lessens the risk of the species being listed under federal protections due to a lack of survey information.

Sage Grouse

NRCS launched the Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010 as a highly targeted and science-based landscape approach to proactively conserve sage-grouse and sustain the working rangelands that support western ranching economies. This innovative partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups and businesses embraces a common vision – achieving wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching. While the name of this initiative is species specific the protection of sage grouse habitat benefits 350 other sagebrush-dependent species, including songbirds like Brewer’s sparrow and green-tailed towhee, as well as game species like deer and pronghorn. Data show that conservation practices used to improve sage grouse habitat led to population spikes of the green-tailed towhee and Brewer’s sparrow by 81 percent and 55 percent, respectively. Just through the Sage Grouse Initiative, NRCS has invested nearly $42 million since 2010 to conserve 191,200 acres of sage grouse habitat in Montana alone. That’s roughly 300 square miles of rangeland and natural resources that will be protected for the benefit of wildlife, working lands, and future generations.

Montana WILD

Montana WILD is an FWP education center located in Helena, MT. Each year Montana WILD has over 10,000 visitors come to the center to learn about conservation and Montana’s fish and wildlife. Staff and volunteers teach more than 5,000 students from over 100 schools from across the state, and an additional 3,000 adults and families from community programs and youth organizations. MT WILD teaches a host of programs on outdoor recreation, field science (bird surveys), living with wildlife, conserving habitat, and becoming good stewards of our state’s natural resources.

Habitat Montana

FWP's existing Habitat Montana program has conserved over 383,000 of acres since 1987 providing opportunities for hunters, anglers, birders, and recreation enthusiasts of all types. MFWPs existing wildlife and fisheries programs have successfully conserved and managed a wide array of species sought out by wildlife enthusiasts such as bald eagles, loons, and cutthroat trout. The Parks Division provides opportunities for hiking and camping in places where the opportunities to view a diverse variety of wildlife exists. Overall there are 89 designated wildlife viewing sites in Montana and 40 Important Bird Areas. Important Bird Areas are great places to bird watch and designated wildlife viewing sites typically support birds, big game, and even large carnivores.

Additional Information