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4 min read

Recovering America's Wildlife Act

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The Endangered Species Act might get a friend..

Wildlife matters to all Americans.

Some people value it for game and outdoor recreation. Others enjoy our nation’s rich flora and fauna through the end of a pair of binoculars or from the vantage point of a canoe. Still, others don’t think much about it until they happen across a fox or a falcon on the road, smiling that such things still exist in our world.

Happily, this is a value that extends across the aisle, which is why the bipartisan Recovering America's Wildlife Act of 2023 (RAWA) was proposed last year to help conserve our nation's wildlife populations for future generations. This act builds upon the foundation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which turns 50 this December, and seeks to deepen the protections for threatened plants and animals across the country.

Although RAWA has its challenges, many smart folks are working hard to make it happen. Let’s take a look at what it is, who it will impact, what the implications for development are, and how you can account for it in your projects should it pass.

 

What Is RAWA and How Will It Build Upon Current Species Efforts?

 

RAWA was introduced as part of the omnibus spending bill for 2023 with the goal of conserving our biodiversity by protecting more than 12,000 species of plants and wildlife, 1,600 of which are listed as endangered or threatened and are in dire need of recovery efforts. The bipartisan bill was initially introduced and voted out of the Senate by the Environment and Public Works Committee. Although this conservation work was left out of the bill at the end of 2022 because its proponents couldn’t agree on a funding vehicle, it is back on the table in 2023.

The act’s premise is that although the Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides clear guidelines for wildlife conservation, the agencies that oversee those efforts lack the funds to carry them out. RAWA’s main purpose is to ensure this can happen by:

  • Providing $1.4 billion annually for conservation efforts across America

  • Funding Tribal conservation efforts to the tune of $97.5 million annually

  • Accelerating efforts to recover the 1,600 endangered or threatened species noted above

  • Mandating recovery efforts follow specific State Wildlife Action Plans

Plus, explains Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor along with Republican Senator Thom Tillis, it “Includes improvements to ensure funds are appropriately targeted to the areas of greatest need and facilitate additional investments in protecting at-risk plant species.”

With bipartisan support, federal funding, and present nonprofit work, this wildlife management plan has the potential to make a drastic impact on our nation.

On a purely conservational level, this act would act as an elixir of life to many of America’s most at-risk species and ecosystems. However, we have to balance that against whom the act will impact.

 

Who Will the Act Impact?

 

In short, RAWA would impact all of us, were it to pass. This conservation action would extend from tribal nations to natural resources to congress alike. For many groups, this would be a positive thing. Tribes would have the necessary funding to protect wildlife species of environmental and historical significance, while in time, outdoorspeople would appreciate being able to hunt more species for which it is difficult to obtain licenses. Conservationists and wildlife agencies would have the funding to carry out research, implement rewilding initiatives, and more.

For developers and the people they serve (those living in the homes they create or using the power they generate – i.e. everybody), the story is a little less straightforward. No matter how conservation-minded we as Americans might be, we must still ensure energy security, housing, and other basic necessities for the population.

 

What Are the Implications for Development?

Any time more regulations exist, that means more hurdles to greenlighting a project and seeing it to fruition. Given the already bottlenecked state of affairs and the challenges of balancing business or renewables development with environmental safety, the phrase “more regulations” might not fill you with enthusiasm.

And RAWA would create more boxes to check before you could break ground on a solar installation, wind farm, or apartment complex. More money to spend on recovery efforts will mean more conservation initiatives that delay or halt development. This could take many forms, such as:

  • New wildlife habitat restoration zones that abut development sites
  • Research that could delay permitting and building
  • Increased assessment requirements for a project on land containing species of concern

Whether you are heartened by this protection of species or simply find it frustrating, the best approach to the potential passing of this landmark legislation is to have a game plan.

 

Developmental Due Diligence: Identifying Species of Concern

 

Not every parcel of land is affected equally by the ESA, for the simple reason that endangered species aren’t spread equally across the continent. For example, some regions may have more freshwater fish at risk of extinction due to development or climate change impacts than other regions. Using protected state fish as an example is obviously a much simpler example of this very complicated process.

To a certain extent, you can predict areas that have less likelihood of development success – wetlands, riparian zones, and regions adjacent to wildlife corridors, to name a few. Most of the time, though, determining the status of a piece of land requires gobs of due diligence, which only gets more complicated during times of regulatory transition.

Luckily, Transect is here to help. Our environmental reporting software now includes a Species Concern Heat Map, which will allow you to see if your land overlays the habitat of threatened or endangered species, so you can quickly move on to greener pastures where necessary. Traditional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data, as well as recommendations from in-house experts, are included in this report.

In addition, Transect’s ready-in-minutes reports help you understand the geology, public considerations, and environmental risk of your proposed site. Instead of paying thousands of dollars and waiting a month to learn whether or not you can move forward, you can now find out in minutes … and leave the stress behind.

Schedule a demo to learn more about how we work to keep you up to date with regulations and red flags on your project site!

 

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