Today, Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) Act, a bipartisan bill which contains several measures that are imperative to conserving wildlife and wild places.
The bill reauthorizes the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that provides a crucial source of funding for species conservation efforts in several priority regions. They include dedicated funds for rhinos and tigers, great apes, marine turtles, African elephants and Asian elephants.
The WILD Act would also expand the Marine Turtle Conservation Act grant program to include tortoises and freshwater turtles, establishing a new source of funding for these priority species. About 60 percent of the 330 modern species are listed as threatened, endangered or are already extinct according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Habitat loss—particularly the loss of wetlands—and the unsustainable trade of tortoises and freshwater turtles as pets and food continue to be leading causes of population declines worldwide.
In addition, the bill includes a newly created Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize, a concept that will encourage innovation in wildlife conservation, combating wildlife trafficking and poaching, and other areas.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) said, “I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will preserve wildlife and promote innovative methods for conservation and invasive species eradication. We can all agree that conservation should be a priority both now and in the future, and this bill, if enacted, will help strengthen partnerships that are critical to the conservation of some of the world’s most threatened species, and will support the development of technologies to protect our native wildlife from some of the most threatening invasive species here at home.”
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said, “I have always been a supporter of conservation and sportsmen alike, and I’m proud to be part of this bipartisan effort to protect some of our most vulnerable species and habitats. Hunters and conservationists have the same goals when it comes to wildlife – to support their continued population growth, diversity, and health. I am happy to join my colleague to support this important legislation.”
Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said, “The need for conservation support remains great, and we appreciate the sponsors of the WILD Act for their leadership. Elephant populations are plummeting due to ivory trafficking, great ape populations are being decimated due to habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade, and tigers currently occupy only seven percent of their historical range. Marine turtle species and rhinos continue to be poached and traded to the brink of extinction, and freshwater turtles and tortoises are in danger as well. I hope the House will quickly take up and pass this bipartisan bill.”
Carter Roberts, the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, “The WILD Act will advance the cause of wildlife conservation, both in the United States and around the world. This bipartisan bill will catalyze innovative solutions to combat wildlife trafficking and improve wildlife management. And it reauthorizes critical Fish and Wildlife Service programs that help developing countries protect their wildlife while creating economic opportunities around conservation. The Senate unanimously approved the WILD Act last spring, and we encourage the House now to take up this important legislation.”
The bill’s Senate companion, S.826, passed the U.S. Senate unanimously last fall.