The Hoosier State is home to some of America’s most beloved wildlife. Today, Indiana has more than 150 species that are at heightened risk of extinction. Extinction is forever; the moment to act is when the animals are numerous. We must tackle the threats leading to extinction: from habitat loss and fragmentation to invasive species and degraded water quality.
What’s happening here in Indiana is part of a larger national trend where more than a third of America’s wildlife is on the verge of extinction. Fortunately, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help save Indiana’s incredibly rich biodiversity through a bipartisan bill in Congress called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA). The bill is designed to fund proactive, collaborative and locally-led efforts to help recover species of fish, wildlife and plants at risk. Indiana could receive more than $18 million a year. It is a solution that matches the scale of the wildlife crisis.
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RAWA has significant bipartisan momentum. The House passed the bill in June in a bipartisan fashion. The bill has more than 30 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 16 Republicans. The Indiana Congressional Delegation may hold the key to RAWA’s destiny, and we need our members of Congress to help bring this vital funding back to Indiana.
Here’s why the bill makes sense for Indiana: We can build on the local, collaborative successes that have been the hallmark of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). For decades, MNR has done innovative work with fees and taxes paid by Hoosier hunters and anglers to restore species like wild turkeys, bald eagles, river otters and white-tailed deer.
Today, there is not the same type of funding to help species at risk like the bat in Indiana. During the summer, an Indiana bat eats up to 3,000 insects every night, including mosquitoes and many crop pests. Unfortunately, disturbance of the caves Indiana’s bats depend on led to a significant population decline and ultimately required listing under the Endangered Species Act. The most recent threat is white nose syndrome, a fungus that has caused unprecedented mortality in many bat species and has now been discovered in 38 caves across the state. Now more than ever, bats in Indiana need RAWA to fund conservation efforts, like helping recover remnant populations and researching innovative strategies to stop the disease.
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That’s where this legislation comes in. RAWA is giving Indiana the financial means it needs to prioritize proactive, local collaboration and innovation. This bill will give Indiana the ability to save the full range of wildlife now and avoid the federal regulations that come with the federal listing. RAWA is the ultimate ounce of prevention.
Indiana’s $18 million a year would spark a new era of conservation for bobwhite, migratory waterfowl, loggerhead shrike, Blanding’s turtles, lake sturgeon, osprey, banded bluegill , Cerulean Warbler, Green Salamanders and Timber Rattlesnakes.
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This collaborative, non-regulatory, locally-led approach to the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act should appeal to the common-sense conservatism of the Senses. Todd Young and Mike Brown. We hope that every member of the Indiana delegation will support it once it is tabled.
After all, what would Indiana be without its wildlife? Outdoor recreation generates more than $9.4 billion a year for Indiana’s economy, and that recreation depends on healthy wildlife. Our state has impressive public lands and waterways, but without our majestic wildlife, these amazing spaces will lose much of their magic.
Inaction is the ally of extinction. We urge Indiana leaders to seize this incredible opportunity to save wildlife through collaboration by helping pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. We need all Hoosiers to call Senator Young and Senator Braun and implore them to vote for wildlife by supporting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
Dan Boritt is the executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Collin O’Mara is the President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
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