Conservation Funding

USFWS Employee with a dead sea turtle

Maintaining healthy wildlife populations, recovering endangered species, and restoring impaired ecosystems all require significant funding.

Unfortunately, the needs of wildlife conservation efforts far outstrip the financial resources currently available to federal, state, and tribal agencies.

Indeed, in the face of climate change, these needs and associated costs are expected to grow sharply.

This plight of wildlife has become even more acute in light of the current economic downturn, as many natural resource agencies suffer budget cuts that are affecting their abilities to meet critical wildlife conservation functions.

Much of the nation's important wildlife habitat is found on private lands, and the wildlife conservation community has found a growing interest among private landowners in working to protect important habitats and species on their lands. Such work, however, is often dependent on the provision landowner incentives to protect habitat and wildlife on their property, and these funds face the same economic pressures as funding to agencies.

Where Does Conservation Funding Come From?

Some of the ways that wildlife conservation efforts are funded include:

There is a clear relationship between the amount and reliability of conservation funding available, and the extent and quality of wildlife protection and restoration that can be carried out.

The National Wildlife Federation is committed to significantly increasing the amount of funding available for wildlife conservation and natural resources protection. Our work to secure fair funding for wildlife focuses not only on the annual federal appropriations process, but also seeks to create major new sources of revenue.

Conservation Funding from Federal Budget Appropriations

Annual appropriations from the federal budget provides the core funding for all the federal agencies responsible for managing natural resources--from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to the U.S. Forest Service. These appropriations are also a major source of grant funds to state and tribal agencies in support of wildlife management and endangered species protection.

House Office Building

National Wildlife Federation works to make sure the federal budget includes robust funding for wildlife and natural resources through such traditional resource-oriented agencies as Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service, as well as non-traditional agencies such as the Department of Defense.

NWF also advocates for robust federal funding to priority ecosystem-scale conservation and restoration projects--such as Great Lakes, Coastal Louisiana, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Funding from Clean Energy and Climate Legislation

The clean energy and climate legislation currently pending before the U.S. Congress represents the most promising opportunity for securing major new funding for wildlife conservation.

National Wildlife Federation has mounted a major campaign to ensure that a portion of the revenue generated annually from auction of carbon credits under this legislation will go to help safeguard wildlife and natural resources from the impacts of climate change.

To ensure that this funding, which could amount to billions of dollars annually, is reliably available for natural resource and wildlife protection activities, NWF feels strongly that these funds should be set aside in a dedicated trust fund, and not subject to the vagaries of annual appropriations process.

Funding From Energy Leases

Energy production--be it wind turbines, solar panels or oil and gas development--that occurs on public land or offshore has to lease the land from the government.

Wind turbine

National Wildlife Federation promotes sensible energy development that prioritizes renewable energy. We also work to make sure that money from energy development on public lands and offshore goes directly back into protecting natural resources.

Of particular importance is the use of off-shore oil lease revenues to finance the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which represents the primary vehicle for funding federal and many state conservation land acquisitions. In recent years LWCF has received only a small portion of the total revenues to which it is entitled, and NWF strongly supports full funding of this important land protection tool.

With the current expansion of renewable energy production on public lands, a number of new opportunities may arise for directing lease and royalty revenues towards wildlife conservation programs.

Funding for Wildlife Conservation in the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is among the largest sources of conservation funding in the federal government. Through such programs as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program hundreds of millions of dollars are available to private landowners to keep wetlands, grasslands and other fragile lands protected for as wildlife habitat.

National Wildlife Federation works to make sure that worthy conservation programs are:

  • included in periodic Farm Bill reauthorizations;
  • well-structured to achieve wildlife benefits; and 
  • fully funded during the annual appropriations process.

Funding From Environmental Damage Mitigation

Longstanding environmental policies call for avoiding environmental impacts where possible, and where this is not possible, to reduce and offset those environmental impacts, a process referred to as "mitigation."

(Note the use of the term "mitigation" here differs from its use in climate change legislation, where it indicates efforts to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.)

Mitigation for environmental damage caused by individual projects offers a significant source of funding that can be directed towards wildlife conservation.

According to the Environmental Law Institute, about $370 million annually is spent on mitigation measures to comply with provisions of the Endangered Species Act. This, however, pales in comparison with the estimated $3 billion spent each year on Clean Water Act mitigation measures.

Although this represents a considerable amount of funding, much of the money paid to mitigate expenditures fail to achieve significant levels of habitat protection and restoration. NWF is working to identify new sources of mitigation funding, such as federal energy legislation.


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