Recovering America's Wildlife

Yellow-headed blackbird photo by USFWS

The Problem: Wildlife Decline

Today, scientists estimate that one third of all US species are at risk of extinction. The decline of America’s wildlife from habitat loss, invasive species, and severe weather has taken its toll on birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, and bees.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a critical tool in preventing the extinction of species, but it was crafted to address crisis cases and does not confront the ongoing widespread challenges of declining populations. Many species are headed towards listing under the ESA if proactive management is not implemented. The need for this management is acute:

  • Over forty percent of freshwater fish species are at risk in North America.
  • One third of bird species in North America are in need of urgent conservation action.
  • Approximately 42 percent of amphibian species (frogs, toads, salamanders) are threatened or declining in the US.

State fish and wildlife agencies have the primary responsibility for managing America’s wildlife. In the past, these agencies have focused on game species popular with hunters and anglers, but the needs of wildlife and those that enjoy them is growing beyond the scope of past management needs.

Hunters and anglers have been joined by birders, hikers, campers, and backyard wildlife watchers to create a fast growing outdoors consumer base that depends on healthy wildlife populations. Today, the outdoor recreation industry contributes $887 billion to our national economy annually, creates 7.6 million direct jobs, and generates $124.5 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. More people work in the outdoor recreation field than in the finance and insurance industry.

The dramatic decline of so many species of wildlife and the habitats they depend on threatens Americans’ quality of life as well as our national economy. It is critical that we come up with a solution that matches the scope of the challenge.

Red-legged frog photo by USFWS 

The Solution: Dedicated Funding to Prevent Wildlife From Becoming Endangered

Each state wildlife agency is responsible for developing a State Wildlife Action Plan, which identifies imperiled species in the state and lists actions that would assist with their protection and recovery. Currently, these plans have identified approximately 12,000 species in need of proactive conservation efforts.

Taking action for these at-risk wildlife identified in the plans will require proactive conservation funding. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources recommends $1.3 billion in federal funding. This money, in addition to numerous state initiatives, will protect our investment into the rapidly growing outdoor economy and act as a safety measure to prevent species from being listed under the ESA, a far more expensive solution.

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