April 07, 2022
A critical piece of environmental legislation, championed by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., came “one huge step closer” to changing the way Missouri and other states protect wildlife.
On Thursday, it passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, 15-5, with both Blunt and Heinrich afterward indicating there should be no trouble getting the 60 votes needed in the Senate. In fact, the bill has 32 co-sponsors representing both parties, so it looks promising.
We have been behind this bill from the beginning, as are many state organizations, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, and more than 1,500 conservation and sporting groups.
Blunt said Thursday there’s no change in total funding provided by the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, or RAWA, but it may ramp up a bit more slowly. It would provide $1.3 billion in annual funding for America’s wildlife, with the money coming from fines collected from enforcement actions against those that violate environmental regulations. When fully ramped up in a few years, Missouri would get an additional $21 million annually.
If this is approved, it would the second major piece of environmental and conservation legislation to get through in these otherwise divided times, the other being the Great American Outdoors Act of 2020. Both indiciate that there is strong bipartisan support for conservation, wildlife preservation, national parks and more.
Somewhere out there, perhaps on a remnant piece of tallgrass prairie in Southwest Missouri, or perhaps in some deep corner of the Ozarks, is our next rosy periwinkle, the flower that produces two alkaloids, vinblastine and vincristine, that cure most victims of Hodgkin’s disease and lymphotic leukemia. Somewhere out there is our next Pacific yew, offering our next Taxol, used to treat a number of cancers, including breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic.
It’s more important than ever that we preserve the diversity of our natural communities for many reasons, not the least being the hope they may offer for medicine, agriculture and alternatives to petrochemicals. In fact, according to Heinrich and Blunt, the are more 12,000 species in this country in need of assistance, and many of those are on the path to extinction.
On Thursday, Blunt called RAWA a “once-in-a-generation opportunity,” but then added: “Senator Heinrich and I both know it has been much longer than that.”
Among its many supporters are the National Wildlife Federation, whose president CEO, Collin O’Mara, said of RAWA: “It will have an immediate impact from the backcountry to the backyard.”
He noted that existing conservation models prioritize species once their existence is threatened or endangered, but that is often late in the game and comes with its own set of problems.
“Imagine if the monarch butterfly ends up listed. The impact on farms all across the country is massive,” O’Mara previously said.
This legislation is designed to provide funding to states to keep them from reaching endangered status. As Heinrich said Thursday, this is “preventative medicine” intended to help species before they need “emergency room intervention.”
Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation and a past president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, also testified during a recent hearing on RAWA that investments in wildlife have historically worked, pointing to waterfowl recovery, but noting that lack of investment means other species — grassland birds, for example — could soon disappear.
“The overall to-do list far exceeds funding,” she added.
We want to thank Blunt for his leadership on RAWA; we think’s it smart, pro-active, forward-thinking legislation.