Tag Archive | "congress"

New Studies Highlight the Value of National Wildlife Refuges to Visitors and Communities

With visitation steadily rising each year – up to 45 million people in 2011 – national wildlife refuges are clearly popular destinations, but their value to visitors and the economy has remained largely unquantified.  Two new studies are helping to remedy that problem.

Last month, the U.S. Geological Survey released the results of a study that surveyed more than 10,000 visitors to 53 national wildlife refuges around the nation.  Approximately 90 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the recreational opportunities, services, and information provided at the wildlife refuges.  In addition, the survey measured visitor spending in nearby communities.  At Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, for example, average spending in the area by nonlocal visitors was $82 per day, while local visitors averaged $45 per day in spending.  These expenditures can add up.  According to the 2006 Banking on Nature report, visitors to the nation’s wildlife refuges that year contributed approximately $1.7 billion in sales to local economies.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release an updated version of that report later this year.

A separate study released last week adds to a growing body of evidence that being located in close proximity to protected open spaces boosts home values.  Researchers from North Carolina State University focused on urban national wildlife refuges in three regions of the country and found that homes within one-half mile of those refuges were valued three to nine percent higher than those located further from a refuge.  Wildlife refuges included in the study were found to boost local property values by $122 million in the Southeast, $95 million in the Northeast, and $83 million in the California/Nevada region.  An upcoming report on ecosystem services will offer an additional measure of the economic value of America’s wildlife refuges.

Though these benefits are undeniably significant, the National Wildlife Refuge System has consistently lacked the congressional investment needed to reach its full potential.  Even at its highest funding level in FY 2010, the Refuge System received only $503 million – little more than half the $900 million that the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement estimates is needed for the agency to fulfill its conservation mission.  Unfortunately, as Congress looks to make good on the debt deal reached last summer, the Refuge System could see its appropriations slashed by 10 percent or more.  These cuts could force many refuges to eliminate recreation programs or close their doors entirely, and many of the demonstrated benefits that they provide to visitors and to local economies will be lost.

Posted in National Wildlife Refuges, Public LandsComments (0)

West Front of the Capitol. Photo Credit- Architect of the Capitol.

Secure Capital for Renewable Energy is Good for Wildlife and the Economy

The Obama administration has done a commendable job jumpstarting renewable energy development and is well on its way to achieving the president’s goal of providing enough renewable energy to power three million homes.  Although the administration’s efforts to boost the renewable energy sector have been successful to date, there is little doubt that concern for continuing access to capital –the result of the potential loss of the production tax credit and grant programs, the impact of cheap natural gas, and the failure to agree on a national energy policy that would spur investment in clean energy development — is undercutting the administration’s successful effort to move the clean energy economy forward. This uncertainty – especially for financing and a growing market for clean energy – will continue to thwart the growth of this energy sector.

Congress could address these concerns by extending tax credits (which could be paid for by redirecting current oil and gas production subsidies) and by passing legislation to establish a national goal for renewable energy production or by finally putting a tax on carbon pollution. These solutions would help spur private-sector investment in clean energy and reduce the industry’s dependence on federal subsidies.  The result would be good for economic growth, stimulate employment, and reduce the federal deficit (by reducing federal outlays and generating increased tax revenue over the long term).

Instead, Congress has chosen to do none of the above — leaving the market uncertain while complaining that the Obama administration has no energy policy.  At the same time, anti-environmental members of Congress choose to argue that regulations designed to protect human health and natural resources are thwarting efforts to promote clean energy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To the contrary, the conservation community has worked in partnership with the solar and wind energy industries to frame policies to guide solar development on public lands and promote responsibly wind energy projects.   With encouragement from the industry and conservation groups, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is poised to finalize a first-of-its-kind plan for responsible solar energy development on public lands, which should help solar energy projects move forward more efficiently by reducing risk to wildlife and natural and cultural resources.

In addition, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued guidelines for wind energy development that were based on the recommendations of a scientific panel (established, in fact, by the Bush administration) and fully-supported by the wind energy industry association and leading conservation organizations. This is ground-breaking progress for the energy sector that has never been seen before and a reflection of a common understanding of the need to develop cleaner, more environmentally-responsible and secure sources of energy.

But to keep the clean energy boom from going bust, our nation’s leaders need to act quickly to shore-up the nascent industry. Congress can start by creating demand for renewable energy, following the lead of some 33 states – most notably California, which has set the highest target aiming to generate 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – and setting a national renewable energy standard. Although such legislation is currently pending, its prospects for passage are not good, to no one’s surprise.   Congress must also make financing for renewable energy development – solar, wind and geothermal projects – more secure as President Obama has called for time and again. The uncertainty of our nation’s commitment to clean energy discourages investment from the private sector. The oil and gas industry receives billions of dollars worth of incentives each year. For the clean energy industry to take flight, Congress must at least make a commitment to renewables on par with fossil fuels.

Last, but certainly not least, the Obama administration must put in place a national program for siting and permitting responsible clean energy projects. As mentioned earlier, the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed solar-energy program stands as an example of “smart from the start” clean energy policy. It was developed with input from conservation organizations, industry representatives, clean energy advocates, utilities, and investors. The program aims to accelerate solar energy development by guiding projects to low-conflict areas that are least likely to impact imperiled wildlife and sensitive lands. This approach reduces risk for investors and provides developers with greater certainty that their projects can move forward and conservationists with greater confidence that risk to wildlife and the environment will be minimized.

If the clean energy sector goes bust, it cannot be blamed on the Obama administration, the solar and wind energy industries, or conservation groups. The blame will fall squarely on Congress, which chooses instead to complain about the lack of a national energy policy, while blocking any effort to help advance our clean energy future and pointing a finger at others for their failure to lead.

Posted in Renewables, Smart from the StartComments (0)

Bill to protect national forest roadless areas introduced

Bill to protect national forest roadless areas introduced

A bipartisan group of more than 130 members of Congress (House & Senate) have joined together in support of legislation to protect 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land in 38 states by codifying the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.  The roadless rule administratively identified areas on our national forests that have not been dissected by roads and established conservation based management guidelines for those areas.  This bill will ensure that the rule endures against efforts to open these lands to development and last through changing administrations.  The bill was introduced by Representative Jay Inslee (D, WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D, WA).

The roadless areas protected under the rule are fundamental to the recovery of imperiled species that need undeveloped and intact habitat to survive.  Testimony this week in Congress on the road and trail system on our national forests highlighted an increase in wildlife presence in the Carson National Forest in New Mexico once road system management was reevaluated and improved, leading to the closure of roads that were no longer necessary, that caused environmental harm, and that were too expensive to continue to effectively maintain.

Beyond wildlife, there are many additional benefits we gain from roadless areas.  National forest lands provide drinking water to tens of millions of Americans – high road density and poorly maintained roads lead to sedimentation and water quality degradation that directly affects downstream communities.  National forests also generate $100 billion in annual revenue, and support an estimated 223,000 jobs in rural communities.

The roadless areas established by the Forest Service ten years ago should not be confused with big “W” Wilderness areas, which can only be designated by Congress.  Wilderness areas are managed under strict rules that don’t allow any motorized uses or machinery.  Roadless designations are much more flexible; they require management for conservation but are not a complete ban on road building or economic utilization.  For instance, the rule allows new roads to be constructed in specified circumstances, such as to fight fires or when other natural events threaten public health and safety.  It also does not close any existing roads or trails and allows full access for recreational activities such as backpacking, camping, hunting and fishing.  The legislation would not affect the right of access to property owned by states or individuals, and would allow logging of certain timber to reduce the risk of wildfires and the expansion of oil and gas operations within existing or renewed leased areas.

In the face of unprecedented attacks on our public lands by those that would sell them or open them up for unlimited development, to have more than 130 members of Congress stand up and declare their support for the continued protection of these valuable forests is a powerful statement.

Defenders is part of a conservation community press release announcing the introduction of the bill.

Posted in National Forests, Public LandsComments (0)

Funding the Refuge System – Is the Battle Just Beginning?

Although the FY 2012 Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2584), which would have slashed funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System and other important conservation programs, was abruptly pulled from the House schedule following word of an agreement on the national debt limit, the battle over deep cuts is just beginning.  As the new fiscal year quickly approaches, debate over Interior Department funding will have to resume after the August recess, potentially in the context of an omnibus measure that would combine this and other agency spending bills.

What does this mean for national wildlife refuges?  While it’s unclear how much the Refuge System will ultimately receive for its operations and maintenance in FY 12, H.R. 2584 would see it funded at only $455 million.  When factoring in rising costs of fuel, rent, and other fixed expenses, this represents a $45 million cut from FY 11.  At this level, the Refuge System would be forced to:

  • Close, or eliminate major programs at, 128 refuges.
  • Eliminate an estimated 200 wildlife and habitat management positions, reducing capacity for inventory and monitoring work, treatment of invasive species, and other habitat management activities.
  • Eliminate about 35 visitor service positions, leaving fewer staff available to coordinate a critical force of refuge volunteers and reducing the quantity and quality of recreational opportunities.  This could be devastating to many communities whose economic well being depends on high visitation at nearby refuges.
  • Eliminate approximately 40 law enforcement positions, leaving only 173 officers to do the work of what an International Association of Chiefs of Police study recommends should be done by 845 officers.

For an agency already stretched too thin, such cuts can be debilitating.  Complicating matters, the debt deal signed into law on Tuesday requires Congress to find $1.5 trillion in federal budget savings by the end of the year, and a further $917 billion in discretionary spending cuts over the next decade.  It remains to be seen where these savings will come from, but growing political hostility over environmental protection does not bode well for national wildlife refuges.

Posted in National Wildlife Refuges, Public LandsComments (0)

Tongass

Bills to “give away” public lands move forward despite harms to wildlife and water

Congressman McCarthy’s Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act seeks to give away some of the last best places on our public lands, and allow private industrial development to move forward in these valuable areas.  The bill would reverse protections on up to 55 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) in National Forests and 6.7 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).

However, a timely report from the Geos Institute shows that there is a great deal of value in protecting unroaded areas, like IRAs and WSAs, throughout our public lands.  The report indicates that the roadless areas in our national forests alone are responsible for approximately $490 million in water purification services.  These benefits go beyond the dollar value of clean water – they provide healthy aquatic ecosystems and vital habitat for endangered and imperiled species.

The Tongass National Forest is threatened by a new Alaska-specific bill.

Despite these benefits, McCarthy’s bill to undo protections on as much as 60 million acres of our public lands has been scheduled for a hearing this Tuesday, and it will be interesting to find out what arguments bill supporters use to try and explain away the vast reach of the bill.  No doubt their primary message will be that lands currently designated as Roadless and Wilderness Study Areas are “locked up” and cannot be used by industry.  This argument truly misses the mark, as I’ve discussed before, and as the Geos report indicates regarding water, just one of many valuable services provided by undeveloped lands.  Defenders of Wildlife has developed a Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act fact sheet with additional information on its potential impacts, as have some of our partners.

While McCarthy’s bill is attacking Wilderness Study and Inventoried Roadless Areas nationwide, some members of the Congressional delegation from Alaska have put forth their own, Alaska-specific bill that would exempt the Tongass and the Chugach National Forests from roadless protections.  This means that all of the designated roadless areas in Alaska would be released and be on the table for development.  Roadless areas in Alaska cover about 15 million acres and contain some of the largest intact areas of old growth temperate rainforest on the planet.  The radical move of exposing these vast areas to development would deliver a setback to the Tongass National Forest where a transition from damaging and controversial roadless and old growth logging toward more sustainable economic development promises to support communities and maintain the healthy and unique ecosystems of southeast Alaska.

Posted in National Forests, Public LandsComments (0)

House votes to block helping farmers prepare for more droughts, floods, and pests

Coauthored by Aimee Delach

In a disturbing trend of attacking the government’s ability to prepare for climate risks, the House passed an amendment to the fiscal 2012 Agriculture spending bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing its new departmental regulation on climate change adaptation.  This amendment puts the nation at increased risk of food disruptions, forest fires, and huge economic losses.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who introduced the amendment, bizarrely claimed USDA’s climate adaptation policy was somehow a “backdoor door attempt to put a cap-and-trade program in place in the Department of Agriculture.”

Far from it.  The commonsense 2-page USDA policy (pdf) says only that agencies should plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships.  It reads, “Through adaptation planning, USDA will develop, prioritize, implement and evaluate actions to minimize climate risks and exploit new opportunities that climate change will bring.”

Tying the USDA’s hand with respect to preparing for climate change seems like a particularly bad idea while the nation is immersed in intense weather and climate-related disasters that are impacting agriculture and forestry– from the Mississippi River flood, to the Texas drought, to the Arizona fire.

According to Texan Matt Farmer:

“It’s as dry as I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime,” said Farmer, 51, a plainspoken Texan not given to hyperbole. “I don’t remember a drought this widespread. I’ve got a lot of country that’s blowing, but I can’t do a thing about it.”

And the irony of Congressman Scalise’s amendment is that he is from Louisiana, which is not only bearing the brunt of much of the record Mississippi River flooding, but is simultaneously under a state-wide severe drought. Some farmers are getting hit with both extremes at once:

“I can’t get my crop out of one side of the levee because it’s too dry and I’ve lost my crop on the other side of the levee because it’s floating away,” said George Lacour, 48, of Morganza, [Louisiana] another farmer trying to juggle the seeming paradox.

The conditions we are seeing this year are breaking records around the country.  While La Niña is probably partly to blame, this year’s events are also consistent with the conditions researchers project are coming with climate change.  Looking at the past record would not have prepared anyone for the events this year – and the future is going to be different yet.

USDA’s climate change adaptation policy would have required agencies to plan for future changes in climate variability and extreme events on USDA programs to prepare for and adjust to anticipated changes.  The regulation is designed to ensure that “taxpayer resources are invested wisely and that USDA services and operations remain effective in current and future climate conditions.” 

The USDA itself is well aware of the challenges climate change will pose for its mission. They lay the problem out quite clearly in their 2010 Climate Change Science Plan:

As the climate changes, those responsible for managing land and water resources will need new information to help with their decision-making. For example, producers will need information to guide them on what to plant, when to plant, and what management strategies to employ during the growing season. Foresters, farmers, and ranchers will need information for management of risks posed by pests and fire. Water resource managers will need information for allocation of water resources between the demands of urban and rural populations, industry, biofuels, agriculture, and ecosystem services. USDA policymakers will need information to guide them in implementing or retooling programs impacting or impacted by climate change. At all levels, global food production data and projections will be necessary for anticipating large-scale socioeconomic feedbacks into U.S. production systems.

Here are some examples of the agencies in USDA and how they are responding to climate change and variability.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is USDA’s principal in-house research agency. ARS has a wide-ranging research program, including:

These and other research questions are vitally important for the maintenance of crop, livestock and human health under a changing climate.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) As the manager of disaster assistance and other commodity programs, FSA is on the front lines of the impact of weather and climate on our nation’s agricultural producers.  Just last month, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wrote to the USDA to seek Secretarial disaster declarations for 26 parishes, on the grounds that “Agricultural producers in the basin will face significant damage and loss to cropland and livestock as a result” of record flooding that forced the opening of the Morganza spillway.

Louisiana Rep. Salise’s amendment would prevent FSW from properly fulfilling its mission as administrator of these disaster programs if it can’t take climate change into account. The separate but related Risk Management Agency, which makes disaster declarations and determines insured cropland eligibility in disaster situations also needs the capabilities to anticipate and respond to climate change and variability.

Forest Service (FS) administers 193 million acres of forests and grasslands that belong to all Americans and also provides research and technical assistance to all forest landowners. In order to protect forest resources, species and ecosystems, and human life and property on and adjacent to forest lands, the Forest Service needs to be able to evaluate, prepare for and respond to climate change impacts on fire frequency and severity, invasive species, forest pests, and other ecosystem dynamics.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) NRCS provides leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment.

NRCS conservation programs assist producers and rural communities to reduce erosion, use water resources more efficiently, protect and enhance wildlife habitat, and more. These conservation investments will produce better results if they are done in a climate-smart fashion.

Don’t we want our government agencies to doing this important work to prepare for the changes ahead? 

In a statement issued in response the amendment, Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president for Defenders of Wildlife, said, “America’s farms, forests and ranchlands not only feed our country, but also help support abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Our food security, property and wildlife heritage are all at risk from increased frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, floods, fires and pests.

“Rep. Scalise and the 237 other members of the House are inhibiting the USDA’s ability to help farmers and forest owners and managers prepare for a future that includes more of the extreme weather events we have just experienced this spring. The future is not going to be the same as the past. This commonsense USDA policy says let’s plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships.”

The Senate should do right by the country’s farmers, forests and the people and wildlife that rely on them, and reject this amendment.

Posted in Agriculture, Climate ChangeComments (1)

“No More Wilderness” bill introduced in Congress

“No More Wilderness” bill introduced in Congress

The Coronado National Forest supports the “sky island” ecosystems of the southwest, some of the most unique and biodiverse areas on our public lands. Portions of the sky islands would be put at risk by this bill.

Companion bills in the House and Senate have been introduced that would strip areas of our public lands currently managed for their wilderness characteristics of their protected status.  If the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011” were to pass, 43 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas on Forest Service lands and Wilderness Study Areas throughout our public lands would no longer be protected, including portions of the sky islands in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona.  The bill would also forbid the land management agencies from providing new protections for these “released” areas in the future, effectively preventing them from being designated as permanently protected Wilderness by Congress and opening them up for development.

What’s worse is that the determination of whether a roadless or wilderness area should be stripped of its protections now and into the future would be based on old information without gathering any new data, and with no input from agency experts and scientists or the public.  This means that areas currently providing high quality habitat for wildlife and supporting healthy ecosystems would be exposed to potential development (including timber harvesting, oil and gas drilling, coal mining and more) without any consideration of those natural values.

Supporters of the bill argue that these areas are being managed as “de facto” Wilderness and that “capital W” Wilderness can only be designated by Congress.  While it’s true that only Congress can designate “capital W” Wilderness, they’re missing a lot of important facts in this argument:

First, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service both have multiple use mandates, which support activities like energy development BUT ALSO give these agencies authority to manage for wilderness characteristics and things like wildlife habitat and biodiversity.  This means that these agencies have plenty of authority for designating areas as roadless or wilderness study and managing them for these resources as a precursor to suggesting that Congress make a “capital W” Wilderness designation.

Second, this argument places the needs of industry ahead of the needs of the public who are, after all, the owners of our public lands.  They characterize these areas as being “locked up” from development instead of recognizing that these areas are open to the public for all kinds of valuable uses that are consistent with BLM and Forest Service missions, including recreation and supporting our national heritage of biodiversity and wildlife.  These uses also support our local economies through tourism, the recreation industry, and ecosystem services (like clean water).

Instead of focusing on developing smart policies that balance the many demands on our public lands, like efforts to direct development onto the already degraded areas on our public lands, this bill would open up the most spectacular pieces of our national heritage to development and could have devastating impacts on the wildlife that take refuge in these protected areas.

Posted in National Forests, Public LandsComments (0)

Federal Subsidies for Members of Congress

The Environmental Working Group broke its latest story on the 23 Members of Congress (or their spouses) who are recipients of U.S. agriculture subsidies .  Between 1995 and 2009, six Democrats received an estimated $489,000 in payments and 17 Republicans received $5.3 million.

Combining EWG’s report with the Center for Responsive Politics database tracking the personal fortunes of Members of Congress, you can see that there are more than a dozen members with a net worth of more than a million dollars also receiving agriculture subsidies.  Of note, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and her husband likely received more than $460,000 in support and Iowa Congressman Tom Latham received $330,000.  Their average net worth was $8.4 million and $5.3 million, respectively.

You can listen to Congresswoman Harzler talk to ABC News about her farm subsidies here .

Posted in AgricultureComments (0)

US_Capitol_Building,_East_side_steps_and_dome

A Tale of Two Planets: The Funding and Defunding of Climate and Conservation Programs

In the planet that is the House of Representatives, there is no climate change.  So it is understandable then that in their Continuing Resolution to fund the government, they would defund any program that addresses climate change, including preventing the EPA from spending money regulating greenhouse gas emissions and slashing $48 million from Department of the Interior climate change adaptation programs (or if amended by a proposal by Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico, the Interior Department couldn’t spend a cent on climate change).

In the planet that is the White House, which seems to reflect the real planet earth, there is in fact climate change that is getting worse by the day.  Even with its legislative setback last year, the White House demonstrated on Valentine’s Day with the release of its annual budget that it is still committed to solving climate change and shifting our economy to cleaner energy sources.  For example, though Interior is cutting over $1 billion from its budget, the administration is proposing $175 million in “Cooperative Landscape Conservation”, or a $43.8 million increase over the fiscal year 2010 funding level.  The programs within Cooperative Landscape Conservation include all the elements in the Department’s previous Climate Adaptation Initiative including investments in science, planning, and on the ground restoration. Instead of making cuts across the board, the administration is actually prioritizing its spending, and making new investments in what is important to the challenges we face today.

Here is a breakdown of the House Continuing Resolution impact on climate change adaptation and other conservation programs.

Posted in Climate ChangeComments (0)

Photo of deer crossing a road

Is America on a crash course with wildlife?

Photo of deer crossing a roadEvery year, State Farm releases their top ten worst states for deer vehicle collisions.  The 2010 list held no surprises with West Virginia in the number one slot for the fourth year in a row. Drivers in West Virginia face a 1 in 42 chance of hitting a deer sometime in the next 12 months.  The list is perennially dominated by Midwestern states, including Iowa, Michigan, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Montana, Pennsylvania and Arkansas – also states with abundant white tail deer – are also there.

America has had a long standing love affair with cars. Ninety five percent of American households have at least one car and we spend about 20 percent of our income on transportation. We’ve built more than four million miles of roads, providing us with unprecedented access and mobility.  But our mobility comes with a price, for both people and wildlife.  Wildlife vehicle collisions claim the lives of 200 Americans and result in 29,000 human injuries every year. Recent estimates indicate between 725,000 and 1,500,000 animals are struck on our roads annually and when we include smaller species such as amphibians and reptiles, the body count goes up to a million vertebrates a day.

Roadkill is nothing new, but statistics show the numbers are increasing dramatically. While the number of auto accidents has remained steady, the number of wildlife vehicle collisions has increased by 50 percent over the last decade. The miles traveled by U.S. motorists increased just two percent in five years, but the number of deer vehicle collisions jumped 20 percent in that same time period. Wildlife-vehicle collisions now represent one out of every 20 reported motor vehicle collisions, and they occur every 26 seconds.

Wildlife vehicle collisions put a dent in our wallets too.  The average property damage cost of each accident is $3,103.  When you add in the loss of work and medical costs, those numbers rise even higher.  The Western Transportation Institute estimated a collision with a deer costs an average $7890, while an elk hit costs $17,100 and a moose hit costs a whopping $28,100.  Add to that the costs of law enforcement, emergency services, road maintenance crews and wildlife management personnel and the total annual cost associated with wildlife vehicle collisions is nearly $8.4 billion.

Are wildlife vehicle collisions a necessary evil?  As long as there are cars on the road, we may never completely eliminate accidents, but we can take measures to reduce the frequency and severity.  Just like many of our roads now include guard rails to prevent cars from veering off, we can include structures to allow wildlife to move safely across the landscape without endangering passing motorists.  Wildlife underpasses and overpasses allow animals to get where they need to go by passing under or over highways without entering the right of way.  Some transportation agencies have begun building wildlife crossings but we have a long way to go before it is standard practice.

Congress can help state transportation agencies make that transition by adding wildlife-friendly provisions in the upcoming highway bill reauthorization. With the midterm elections behind us, many believe the highway bill is one of the few bipartisan efforts with a chance for success in a contentious Congress.  As luck would have it, two of the State Farm top ten states have congressional delegates in key positions on the committees in charge of reauthorizing the highway bill.  Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) chairs the Environment and Public Works committee and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV-3rd) is expected to claim the ranking member position on the House committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  They have a tremendous opportunity to help their states and American motorists across the country by instituting policy changes to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions and avert a crash course with wildlife.

Posted in Imperiled WildlifeComments (0)


dotWild is the blog of scientists and policy experts at Defenders of Wildlife, a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

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