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Posts from category "Recovering America's Wildlife Act"

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R.3742, Would Boost Texas Bat Conservation, Eco-tourism

© Thomas Kunz, Boston University 

Texas happens to be the battiest state in the USA, home to 32 of the nation’s 47 bat species. In a state where everything’s said to be bigger, not only do we have the most kinds of bats, we also boast the world’s largest known bat colony, Bracken Cave Preserve near San Antonio, and the planet’s largest urban bat colony, Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin. Visitors from around the world flock to Texas to see the winged mammals at close to a dozen bat-viewing locations.

Fortunately, public fears of bats as scary vampires, bats flying into people’s hair, and other unfounded phobias fostered by Hollywood have largely abated in recent decades, thanks to persistent public education work by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Bat Conservation International and many others. The upshot today is more and more Texans are realizing how cool bats are, and how valuable they are for crop pollination, insect control and eco-tourism.

Photo courtesy TPWD

To cite one example, university research has shown that bat insect control is worth $1.4 billion annually for agriculture in Texas alone. This value includes reduced crop loss to insect pests, reduced spread of crop diseases, and reduced need for pesticides.

Bat benefits have broad impact, since they are often “keystone species” that are essential to some ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain.

Yet bats, like more than 1,300 other species of concern in Texas, need our help. Their karst cave habitats are threatened, and some bat populations are declining. White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that rouses bats from hibernation, causing them to consume their winter fat stores and starve to death. The fungus was detected for the first time in Texas in early 2017 in the Panhandle, and by early 2018 it spread into Central Texas. No bats have died yet in Texas, but the syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America since it was first discovered in 2007.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would provide invaluable new funding and resources to help boost bat conservation, education and related eco-tourism.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act won’t pass unless people who care take action! Learn how you can help #RecoverWildlife by using our toolkit page. 

SIGN UP FOR UPDATES AND ACTION ALERTS FOR THE RECOVERING AMERICAS WILDLIFE ACT! 

 © J. Scott Altenbach, University of New Mexico - Mexican (Brazilian) Free-tailed Bat

 

Photo courtesy Nyta Brown, TPWD

Natural Resource Professionals: Show Your Support For Recovering America's Wildlife Act!

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is landmark proposed legislation that will change the trajectory of fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation in the United States. Gaining extraordinary momentum since its introduction, the legislation has over 105 bipartisan cosigners and thousands of official supporters. As momentum for upcoming hearings and votes builds, it is essential that Representatives hear from professional biologists, natural resource managers, professors, and researchers that this effort is strongly supported by “boots on the ground.”  

You can go on record as supporting RAWA by signing the Scientist Sign-on Letter in Support of Dedicated Conservation Funding hosted by The Wildlife Society. This letter documents the unprecedented level of support for this historic proposed legislation and will be distributed to U.S. Congressional offices.  If you’re not sure if your University or employer would endorse this advocacy, the form allows you to enter your affiliation with a professional society (ex: Society for Range Management, Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society).  

Going on record as supporting RAWA is an important action, but it is just the first step in a long journey for the Act. If RAWA is to become law, representatives must hear a choir of support: support from constituents interested in how the act will positively impact their businesses, support from special interests in their districts, and support from people the Representatives personally know and respect. You can be a part of that important sphere of influence by engaging directly with your specific congressional Representatives and by activating your own personal and professional network. Need tools? Check out the Texas Alliance Toolkit and find your Representative, get FAQ sheets, and download advocacy fliers for the business or industry in which you might have contacts.  You can also send emails to your peer networks and the organizations to which you belong, asking them to do the same.  In some cases, it took only a few messages to convince a Member of Congress to cosponsor the bill!

RAWA has a long way to go, but with each of us preparing the way, it’s possible for this proposed bill to become law and change the way we take care of our natural resources for the next 100 years!

Questions? Contact: Kelly Conrad Simon, Kelly.simon@tpwd.texas.gov

 

 

Image: Guadalupe bass release, Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Chase Fountain

Recovering America's Wildlife Act Reaches 100 Cosponsors!

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act, H.R.3742, has already acquired 100 bipartisan national cosponsors -- including 5 Texans! 

Did you know that America lacks a dedicated funding stream to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife? The Recovering America's Wildlife Act would be the most significant wildlife funding legislation passed in over 80 years, providing a 21st century model for wildlife conservation funding. It would be a game-changer for wildlife and habitat conservation - and people - through the many benefits wildlife and nature provides us.

H.R.3742 is good for wildlife, good for business, and good for Texans.

Learn more about the Recovering America's Wildlife Act here...

Take action by using our online toolkit...

Significant Action Needed for Wildlife

You may have seen recent media regarding the United Nations report which estimates that one million species globally are at risk of extinction. This troubling news came from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a panel with 132 participating nations, including the United States. The report also highlights implications for humans - how species losses impact water and food security, as well as human health.

In 2018, the National Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, and The American Fisheries Society reported similar declines for the United States. Nationwide, one-third of our fish & wildlife are believed to be at increased risk of extinction. Significant action is needed now to reverse this crisis.

One of the critical barriers we face in addressing these declines is the need for dedicated, adequate state wildlife conservation funding. States are currently funded at less that 5% of what they need to effectively implement their Wildlife Action Plans. These action plans are conservation "road maps" for stabilizing at-risk species populations, before they become endangered.

Soon to be reintroduced in Congress, bipartsian legislation known as the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, seeks to address these funding challenges and provide a new model for state wildlife conservation funding. Recovering America's Wildlife Act would provide $1.3 billion nationally to state-based conservation, and $97.5 million to tribal lands, without any new taxes, to fund conservation efforts for at-risk fish & wildlife across the nation.

Texans often ask, what can I do to help? Many actions, big and small, really do help. For example, growing native plants in your garden, supporting and volunteering with your favorite conservation organization (like those in our Alliance), or visiting one of our many state parks, which provide natural space for wildlife and people. Advocating for solutions to help find sustainable wildlife funding is also a meaningful and impactful way to help. Passing legislation like Recovering America's Wildlife Act would truly be transformative for fish and wildlife conservation, helping to stabilize and recover the full array of fish and wildlife in Texas, and across the country.

Stayed tuned for updates on how you can help support these efforts.

 

Monarch butterflies - Texas Parks and Wildlife

Wanted: More Winter Texans – Northern Pintail Duck and Its Coastal Marshes Need Our Help

Nicknamed the “greyhound of the air,” the northern pintail is a sleek, narrow dabbling duck sporting long wings. The drake is easily recognizable by its distinctive black tail feathers, referred to as sprigs that protrude to the rear like pins, thus its common name. Pintails once were one of the most abundant ducks in North America but have suffered a disturbing decline since the 1950s and remain a species of concern to waterfowl managers.

While many of the dabbing duck species rebounded nicely in the last couple decades due to above average rainfall, Farm Bill Programs, and a changing predator community in their breeding grounds in the northern prairie pothole regions, pintails did not respond the same.

Texas has always been one of the major wintering ground states for pintails along with California and Louisiana. According to the annual Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas averages a little over 600,000 pintails wintering in Texas each year.

When continental pintail populations were last at high levels nearly a half century ago, more than 1 million northern pintails wintered along the Texas coast. A record high was recorded in 1999 of 1.8 million pintails. In stark contrast, 15 years later saw a record low of 173,000.

Pintails may be below long term average according to their historic breeding populations, yet they still are one of the most abundant ducks in Texas.

Flooded rice fields along the coastal prairies and shallow bays laden with shoalgrass beds offer these winter Texans the food sources they need. Freshwater ponds nearby enable pintails to purge themselves of the saltwater they consume, and back bay lakes, lagoons and estuaries provide safe havens for resting and roosting. Ducks often seek these habitats to strengthen pair bonds with their mate and to avoid human disturbance.

The challenge facing pintails, and other migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, is maintaining suitable habitat. Rice production once covered the Texas coastal grassland prairies from Houston through the mid-coast, but has steadily declined in recent decades due to land development, agricultural production costs and competing water demands.

Pintails are adapting to these ecological changes due to their nomadic migration style, and despite deficits for food abundance and availability along the Texas Gulf Coast, Texas still has an incredible abundance of fresh water available to pintails further inland in the Rolling Plains and Oaks and Prairies associated with nearly a million small manmade stock ponds. These ponds don’t experience the human disturbance like the bays, marshes, and rice fields of the Gulf Coast, and certainly don’t have the carrying capacity individually like a rice field or moist-soil managed wetland, but collectively they can support millions of birds throughout the winter period.

The good news is lots of pintails are still visiting Texas each winter and about half of the pintails still visit the Texas Gulf Coast. With the help of funding from passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, habitat recovery efforts can ensure these majestic birds will continue to make their winter homes in Texas for years to come.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act won’t pass unless people who care take action! Learn how to speak out for wildlife on our tool kit page. #SpeakOut4Wildlife

To receive Recovering America's Wildlife Act updates, sign up for our mailing list here.

Photo: TPWD

Photo: George Gentry

Saving the State Fish of Texas!

Another case for Recovering America's Wildlife Act...

Guadalupe Bass Restoration Helps Hill Country Rivers, Fishing and Paddling

After decades of conservation work to save the Guadalupe bass, the official state fish has been largely restored to at least one Texas river, the South Llano. Similar work continues on the Blanco and Pedernales and is about to start on the San Gabriel. The native fish is among more than 1,300 species of concern in Texas that would get help if the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passes, with big benefits for rivers and water quality, people, and the economy.

Guadalupe bass conservation is about more than just one species of fish. It’s about helping the entire river where the fish lives, the people who live along its banks, and all those who love to come swim, wade, fish, float or paddle. On the South Llano, the Guadalupe bass is the centerpiece of a broader effort involving local communities, riverside landowners, nonprofits and universities, all focused on improving the health of the entire watershed.

And it’s been a way to get more people out enjoying rivers and the outdoors.

Since 1992, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been stocking Guadalupe bass in Hill Country rivers, trying to restore a balance that was upset when the native fish started interbreeding with imported smallmouth bass stocked in the late 1950s.

In partnership with the Llano River Watershed Alliance, the Texas Tech University Llano River Field Station, area landowners and others, a plan was hatched to restore Guadalupe bass and improve the river’s ecological health. From 2011 to 2017, more than 700,000 genetically-pure Guadalupes were stocked into the South Llano. Today, less than 2 percent of the population now consists of hybrids.

Besides stocking, project partners organized river conservation workshops that engaged 750 landowners and community partners. More than 78,000 acres of ranchlands began stewardship practices to help preserve fish habitats. Restoration projects restored 7,754 acres of spring, stream and riparian habitats, directly benefiting water quality, as well as helping Guadalupe bass and many other aquatic creatures.

River recreation got a big boost as part of the mix. In 2012, TPWD and local community partners launched the South Llano River Paddling Trail, one of dozens of similar paddling trails on rivers, lakes and bays across Texas. Along 6.3 river miles, the trail gives kayakers and canoers safe places to put in and take out of the river, with signs and educational kiosks telling visitors about the Guadalupe bass.

“Our goal is to restore and maintain at least 10 self-sustaining populations of Guadalupe bass throughout its native creeks and rivers,” said Tim Birdsong, Chief of Habitat Conservation for the TPWD Inland Fisheries Division.

“If the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passes, successful models like the restoration of Guadalupe Bass would spread to many other Texas rivers,” Birdsong added. “And since a portion of RAWA funds can be spent for education and outreach, that opens the way for more paddling trails and other programs to help people enjoy healthy rivers. It would be a huge win-win for watersheds, aquatic species and for everyone in Texas.”

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act won’t pass unless people who care take action! Learn how to speak out for wildlife on our tool kit page. #SpeakOut4Wildlife

Check out this Texas Parks and Wildlife video on Guadalupe Bass conservation!

 

Photos:

South Llano River near Junction, TPWD

Guadalupe Bass, TPWD

 

Critters of the Cross Timbers Ecoregion

By Abigail Diggs, Texas Alliance Community Outreach Intern

"I spent much of my childhood in an oak forest near my home, building treehouses, harvesting pecans, and avoiding copperheads. When I return to the Cross Timbers I find myself walking or biking the very same trails I grew up roaming and am thankful to be reminded of its subtle beauty. My favorite animal to encounter is the classic white-tailed deer!"

Stretching from the southern tip of Kansas to the heart of Central Texas, the Cross Timbers ecosystem functions as a sanctuary for naturalists and a home for an array of treasured wildlife species. This timbered grassland is unique in its bursts of dense forests: an ecological characteristic that sustained Native American populations and perplexed early pioneers. 

Now home to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the Cross Timbers has undergone a dramatic series of changes from its original state in which bison, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, mountain lions, black bears, and burrowing owls once imprinted on these grasslands. Many of the mammals listed above have been almost entirely extirpated from the area due to factors such as development and displacement. Present flora and fauna are threatened for these same reasons nearly 165 years later, in addition to the “the ensuing spread of highly invasive eastern red cedars,” as noted by the Nature Conservancy. 

A variety of cherished wildlife, including coyotes, falcons, quail, wild turkeys, bobcats, and white-tailed deer, pepper the Texas portion of the ecosystem and find habitat within the concentrated oak forests and wispy native bluestem grasses. A portion of the ecoregion contains the Central Flyway for bird migration, sustaining songbirds, birds of prey and waterfowl that utilize the region as a breeding ground or resting place. However, many species are struggling for survival in this urbanized environment, as approximately 105 identified mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, invertebrate, and plants are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need with various levels of vulnerability. 

The resilience of many iconic wildlife, including the bald eagle, Texas horned lizard, Northern bobwhite quail, northern harrier, and river otter, continue to face challenges in the Cross Timbers, where Texas Parks and Wildlife finds that “there is little public land, few private preserves and a low percentage of private land under wildlife management plans when compared to other Texas ecoregions.”

Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R.4647), could bring over $63 million dollars per year to Texas, to help implement the Texas Conservation Action Plan (TCAP) for this region, and other parts of Texas. The TCAP proposes methods to conserve threatened populations in the context of their native ecosystem, through activities such as the control of invasive species, and an increase in land and water protection. State agencies, conservation organizations, land trusts, and private landowners could greatly expand programs such as habitat restoration, establishment of conservation easements, cost-share programs, and species introductions. In addition, a portion of funds could be used for conservation education and increasing access to wildlife through outdoor recreation. These opportunities, coupled with abundant green space in urban/suburban areas, increase property values, and have vast physical and mental benefits for city residents.

As the region has already fallen victim to a period of stark wildlife loss in the 19th century, it is crucial that today’s species are protected and appreciated for their contribution to the natural world. Fish and wildlife are part of local ecosystems which provide us clean water, air, food, fiber and a wealth of recreational opportunities. The Cross Timbers ecoregion is truly a unique addition to the biodiversity of the Lone Star State, and as it continues to be faced with rising risk of habitat fragmentation, the mission to conserve its remaining old-growth forests, prairies, and river corridors must be of utmost priority. Though we face many challenges in this region,  through public/private partnerships, and increased funding for effective conservation action, we can help to preserve our natural heritage for future generations of Texans. 

Read more about how Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and how you can help.

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Photo courtesy:

Landscape photos, Abigail Diggs

Bison, Rachel Rommel

Bald eagle, TPWD

New Recovering America's Wildlife Act Video!

 

Check out this inspiring new Texas focused video about Recovering America's Wildlife Act...

 

Senate Bill Recognizes Urgent Need for Wildlife Conservation Funding

Two Republicans and two Democrats introduced S. 3223, in the U.S Senate yesterday recommending that Congress authorize $1.3 billion annually from energy and mineral revenues on federal lands and waters for projects to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife species.  

While not identical to the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R. 4647, introduced into the US House of Representatives by Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), S. 3223 is a step in the right direction for protecting fish and wildlife species before they become endangered.   

H.R. 4647 has gained a widespread, bipartisan co-sponsorship due to its innovative approach to solving America’s wildlife crisis, with the current list of co-sponsors approaching 80 members, including seven Texans. 

Leaders of the energy, outdoor recreation retail, manufacturing, and automotive sectors joined with sportsmen and other conservation groups in proposing the funding mechanism, which provides crucial funding for wildlife without raising taxes or taking funds from other wildlife programs.

Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said S.3223 represents an important step towards to addressing the crisis facing America’s wildlife and he urged the Senate to strengthen it further through the addition of dedicated funding.

“America’s wildlife are in crisis—more than one third of all species are vulnerable or at risk. We’re grateful to Senators Risch and Manchin for introducing a bill that demonstrates that the best way to save America’s 12,000 at-risk species is through collaborative, proactive, on-the-ground conservation efforts," O'Mara said. "This bill is an important step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the Senate to strengthen it further by adding the dedicated funding necessary to save the full diversity of wildlife species through collaborative conservation.”  

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, commonly referred to as Pittman-Robertson after its sponsors, helped fuel the recovery of pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, numerous kinds of waterfowl and ducks, and other game species.  The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would extend those recovery efforts to non-game species. 

Sponsors of S. 3223 include Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

 

New Texas Cosponsors!

The cosponsor list for Recovering America's Wildlife Act, H.R.4647, has grown to 68 congress members. We have three new Texas Representatives who have cosponsored-- Kay Granger [R-12], Pete Sessions [R-32] and Henry Cuellar [D-28]!

We now have a total of 5 Texas cosponsors--and are tied in 2nd place for the most by state.

Enthusiasm is growing for this bill, and we are so grateful to all who continue to spread the word and raise awareness for this landmark legislation.

THANK YOU! 

September 2019
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