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Conservation panel recommends funding for endangered species

A group of energy, business and conservation leaders this week released recommendations about how to avert the growing endangered species crisis in the U.S.

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources determined that applying a portion of revenue from energy and mineral development on federal lands and waters to fund state-based conservation could address conservation needs for thousands of species.

The panel was assembled in 2014 and met three times to produce recommendations and policy options on the most sustainable and equitable model to fund conservation of the full array of fish and wildlife species.

The co-chairman was John L. Morris, a noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops, and it includes representatives from the outdoor recreation retail and manufacturing sector, the energy and automotive industries, private landowners, educational institutions, conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups and state fish and wildlife agencies.

“Conservation means balancing the sustainability of fish and wildlife resources with the many needs of humans for clean air and water, land, food and fiber, dependable energy, economic development and recreation. It is our responsibility to lead the way so our state fish and wildlife agencies have the resources they need to conserve species and manage our natural resources — the future of our industry and the outdoor sports we love depend on this investment,” Morris said in a statement. “Redirecting revenues from energy and mineral development to state-based conservation is a simple, logical solution, and it is now up to our leaders in Congress to move this concept forward.”

An annual investment of $1.3 billion from these development revenues into the currently unfunded Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to proactively manage these species, reducing taxpayer costs and the regulatory red tape that comes when species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The number of species petitioned for listing under the act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade.

The money would be a new funding mechanism for state fish and wildlife agencies to help them address concerns about non-game species, Dave Chanda, president of the association and director of New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, told the New Jersey Herald.

“Congress has directed every state to provide a Wildlife Management Plan,” Chanda said. “This $1.3 billion represents about two-thirds of what the cost of all those plans would be.”