Weekly Columns

The state of Arkansas adopted the nickname “The Natural State” in 1995 and for good reason –– our land’s undeniable beauty, clear lakes and streams and abundance of natural wildlife. We have an opportunity to build on that important legacy. Congress is aiming to strengthen conservation efforts through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would enable us to better protect the environment and preserve our natural resources for future generations so we can continue to live up to our very apt moniker. 

One of the reasons I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is because it would provide on-the-ground actors, such as farmers and ranchers, conservation organizations, state authorities and tribal governments, with the resources they need to pursue collaborative conservation efforts in their regions. 

Our outdoor recreational opportunities are well known, and this legislation would safeguard the long-term health of fish and wildlife habitat in Arkansas– and all across the country – by investing in conservation efforts for more than 12,000 species of wildlife and plants we know are in need of preservation. These conservation tactics would improve Arkansas’s education and recreation projects. 

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission describes this legislation as “an unprecedented opportunity to sustain the benefits of our natural world.”

Arkansas would be eligible to receive $15 million annually which would be distributed to state agencies, conservation organizations and universities, while also allowing us to expand and compliment the work of our state’s Wildlife Action Plan. This strategy has served as a foundation for wildlife conservation helping facilitate the implementation of proactive, voluntary approaches through federal and state agencies since 2005.

With the decline in hunting and angling license purchasers in the last decade, natural resource management has been in jeopardy. According to a recent study by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, nearly 60 percent of $3.3 billion in conservation funds to state wildlife agencies come from hunting and fishing-related activities, either directly through the sale of licenses, tags and stamps, or indirectly through federal excise taxes on hunting and recreational shooting and angling equipment. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will assist in delivering sustainable funding for natural resource management. 

Our trademark natural resources are a gift, but they provide economic benefits as well. For example, as Arkansans we pride ourselves on being a premier duck hunting destination, where we see more than 100,000 waterfowl hunters each year who contribute $1 million each day of duck hunting season to the state economy. All of this occurs in rural communities. As an avid outdoorsman, I’m proud to advocate and support legislation that strengthens our nation’s wetlands and bolsters waterfowl habitat. 

Support for this legislation is gaining momentum. In addition to the bipartisan backing of more than 30 senators, in early December the Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing examining our bill. This is a crucial step forward so we can make improvements and get the support of committee members to advance the legislation to the Senate floor. 

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will build on recent success in conservation. Last year, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act and the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act. Both landmark bills helped to improve our nation’s struggling conservation work and underscored how broad the consensus is around the necessity to protect our natural resources. 

We can be proud of the recent successes in our conservation efforts. However, we must continue that progress by supporting ideas like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act so our natural resources will be available to observe and enjoy for years to come.