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Conservation & Policy

wild turkeyFor more than 80 years, the National Wildlife Federation has been the voice for our fish and wildlife in Washington, D.C. From the 1937 passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act to the 2019 passage of the John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, we have been the driving force behind many of our nation’s most critical pieces of conservation legislation supporting our ability to hunt and fish.

The National Wildlife Federation’s policies are guided by policy resolutions passed by our 51 independent state and territorial affiliates, a little over half of whom represent the hunter/angler conservation voice in their state. This ensures that our policies represent the space where differing conservation viewpoints and geographical interests find common ground. Our ability to work with both sides of the political aisle and collaborate with diverse interests is critical to our success in achieving conservation victories for fish and wildlife.

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Current Issues

Recovering America's Wildlife Act

The National Wildlife Federation was established in 1936 at a time when America’s wildlife was in crisis. Our first legislative victory was the passage of Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937, which has helped recover game species by distributing excise taxes on firearms and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies for conservation. We’re in another wildlife crisis today, though, as the status of many other species – listed by states as species of greatest conservation need – is perilous or in decline. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide state wildlife agencies additional funding to implement state wildlife action plans to recover these species and keep them off the endangered species list, where much more expensive and severe measures would be needed to prevent extinction.

For more information, contact Naomi Edelson at EdelsonN@nwf.org.

The Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is the largest source of private lands conservation in the nation, critical to habitat for upland game birds, waterfowl, turkeys, and deer. The National Wildlife Federation works with our partners and Congress through each Farm Bill renewal to ensure that it contains the conservation provisions necessary to provide incentives to maintain wildlife habitat and prevent the destruction and draining of wildlife habitat. The passage of the Farm Bill in late 2018 was a testament to our ability to work with both sides of the political aisle to achieve conservation victories for fish and wildlife.

For more information, contact Aviva Glaser at GlaserA@nwf.org.

greater sage grouseSage-Grouse Conservation

The greater sage-grouse once numbered in the millions across the western United States. Unfortunately today, estimates say somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 birds remain. The sharp decline is the result of urban development, overgrazing, energy development, roads, and drought. The birds, interestingly, share the same habitat with many of our prized western big game species and hundreds of other important wildlife species. When you hear “what’s good for the bird is good for the herd,” it’s not just a catchy slogan. Mule deer, elk, and pronghorn all reside on much of the same sagelands as the sage-grouse. The fate of the animals, particularly mule deer, is tied intimately to the fate of the sage grouse. For instance, mule deer have experienced drastic declines in Wyoming where more than a third of all sage grouse on Earth reside. In the Wyoming Pinedale, a 40% decline in mule deer herd numbers has been documented over that past 20 years. This situation is not acceptable to hunters. The National Wildlife Federation and our sporting affiliates have been at the forefront of the fight to protect sage-grouse and the sagebrush steppe ecosystem. We worked for years to help establish the 2015 sage-grouse conservation plans. These plans were a vast negotiation between all affected stakeholders that set the course for keeping sage-grouse off the endangered species list and on the path to recovery. Unfortunately, in 2018, the new administration changed course and reopened the plans. The result is new plans with drastically reduced protections and increased development activity in core sage-grouse habitat. Now more than ever the hunting community must step up to ensure the survival of these birds and the hundreds of other species reliant on the sagebrush steppe. Our Western sporting traditions are counting on it.

For more information, contact Mary Greene at GreeneM@nwf.org.

Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly known at the Pittman-Robertson Act, includes an 11 percent tax (approx.) on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that is apportioned to state wildlife agencies each year for wildlife conservation and hunter education. The National Wildlife Federation helped lead a coalition to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937 when many now-common wildlife species populations were in crisis. Since distributions began in 1939, it has provided more than $18 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies to date, all funded by hunters and recreational shooters, and helped recover iconic game species like wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and elk from scarcity to surplus.

However, the number of hunters has declined in recent decades, from 14.1 million hunters in 1991 to 11.5 million by 2016, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, & Wildlife-Associated Recreation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and projections forecast that number may continue to drop.

The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act would authorize some funding from Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment to be spent by state wildlife agencies on recruiting and marketing to hunters and recreational shooters in order to reverse declines in hunting participation, which provides funding for wildlife conservation.The bill maintains existing funding streams for wildlife conservation actions by allowing state agencies the flexibility to use funding in the hunter education allocation from Pittman-Robertson, and within set limits, but not from the wildlife restoration allocation.

For more information, contact Mike Leahy at LeahyM@nwf.org.

Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects cervids like deer, elk, and moose, leaving them emaciated and “wasting” away. It is always deadly to wildlife, whether directly or through its symptoms, and it has spread to dozens of states. It is related to mad cow disease, though it has not yet crossed the species barrier to humans. The threat that it could, though, has dire consequences for the future of hunting, a significant source of healthy wild game meat for American families, and for the conservation funding it provides through hunting licenses and excise taxes on equipment. The National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates are leaders in advocating for solutions to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease, including working with Congress to introduce legislation like the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act and the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act to provide resources to state agencies struggling to contain CWD and study its transmission pathways, as well as advocating for better regulation of private high-fence facilities and “deer farms” where CWD is often harbored and spread to wild deer herds.

For more information, contact Mike Leahy at LeahyM@nwf.org.

rocky mountain meadow coloradoWildlife Migration Corridors

Migration corridors are the literal pathways wildlife use to get from one location to another. Moving between these locations is absolutely essential to their survival. For instance, elk that summer high in the Rockies must go down in elevation during the winter to avoid deep snow that would prevent them from accessing forage. These pathways or corridors are often riddled with obstacles that make the journeys treacherous. Fortunately, conservationists and wildlife managers have begun to understand corridors better and are seeking management activities that ensure their health. For instance, we recently learned that mule deer in Wyoming travel up to 250 miles between their winter and summer range. This amazing trip underscores the need to think about conservation on a large-landscape scale. In 2018 the Department of the Interior issued a Secretarial Order subscribing a new focus and protection for big game migration corridors. The order has brought new energy and resources to migration corridors and is helping pave the way for better understanding these critical areas. The National Wildlife Federation is working with our affiliates across the West on policy and on-the-ground projects to ensure that development activities don’t negatively impact these areas and to heighten our understanding of what these animals need. A key area of focus is the Upper Rio Grande watershed in New Mexico and Colorado. Three national forests in the area are updating their forest plans and we’re working to ensure that corridors are prescribed appropriate management activities that conserve these areas and maintain their function as critical wildlife pathways.

For more information, contact Mike Leahy at LeahyM@nwf.org.

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