From Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:
WASHINGTON – Early this morning congressional leadership released a $1.7 trillion bipartisan omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2023 that includes some increases for public lands management agencies, as well as funding for Interior Department programs that conserve fish and wildlife habitat. The bill also authorizes funding to address the threat of chronic wasting disease.
Included in funding for the Interior Department is a 7.5% increase for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including an increase of $23 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System over last year, as well as an increase of nearly 6% for the Bureau of Land Management. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act would receive $50 million, and $81 million is allocated for sage grouse habitat conservation. An additional provision would close loopholes for conservation easement tax incentives, protecting the integrity of easements that help consolidate inholdings and leverage Land and Water Conservation Fund projects, securing public access to landlocked public lands.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is encouraged by the bill’s release and commended decision-makers in Congress for their commitment to including strong conservation measures and addressing hunter and angler priority issues.
“The holiday season just got much brighter,” said Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO. “We are excited that our congressional champs found a way to include important provisions to our community and get them over the finish line. Their recognition of the vital roles public land, water and wildlife play in our every day lives is much appreciated. Their investment in science and overall management is applauded.”
The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act (H.R. 5608) is a notable inclusion in the sprawling legislation. BHA and its partner organizations have consistently advocated for the bill, which would coordinate efforts between the Agriculture Department and both state and tribal wildlife agencies and departments of agriculture, authorizing $70 million in funding annually through fiscal year 2028. Passed by the House on Dec. 8, 2021, the CWD bill had recently received approval from every member of the Senate except Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
“We are gratified to be able to work with our partners in the hunting community and with congressional champions to secure this win before the end of the 117th Congress,” Tawney said. “We thank Representatives Ron Kind and Glenn “GT” Thompson and Senators John Hoeven and Martin Heinrich for their leadership on this important legislation. And we thank hunters in Kentucky and across the country who spoke up in support of the bill – and who together were able to shift course and advance it through the omnibus. This is a win for sportsmen and women, for the science-based management of wildlife, and for public lands and waters.”
Despite overwhelming support from hunting and angling interests, however, the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, or RAWA, was not included in the omnibus, even after passing the House earlier this year. A broad coalition has worked tirelessly to advance the conservation funding bill, with upwards of 15,000 BHA members and supporters raising their voices in support.
“The impacts of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act on wildlife conservation and management would be, in a word, unprecedented,” stated Tawney. “RAWA is the product of decades of hard work and dedicated collaboration by innumerable diverse stakeholders, including sportsmen and women, conservationists and business leaders. We’re disappointed to miss this opportunity to advance the bill in the 117th Congress. However, we also thank our champions, Senators Martin Heinrich and Roy Blunt and Representative Debbie Dingell, for their tireless efforts until the last moment to try and secure the inclusion of RAWA. We’re already looking toward the 118th Congress and tackling the work necessary to see RAWA passed into law.”
The Senate and the House are expected to vote on the legislation as soon as today, with final passage anticipated before the end of the week. The current continuing resolution, which has funded the government during the interim, will expire on Friday.
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