Recovering America’s Wildlife Act legislation (H.R. 3742) The proposed Recovering American's Wildlife Act legislation is based on recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel for Conserving America’s Wildlife.
The federal Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would dedicate more than $25 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 and provide 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 would amount to $25 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.
Funds shall be used to:
Funds may be used to:
Funds are prohibited from being used for education efforts, projects, or programs that promote or encourage opposition to the regulated taking of fish and wildlife.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
This Recovering America's Wildlife Act Story Map highlights conservation successes funded by the past and current funding situation in Montana while also describing some important work that still needs to be done.