HomeScienceWildlifeIndiana's endangered wildlife can't wait, US senators must pass RAWA

Indiana’s endangered wildlife can’t wait, US senators must pass RAWA

The state of Hoosier is home to some of America’s most treasured wildlife. Today Indiana has more than 150 species that are at increased risk of extinction. Extinction is forever; the time to act is when animals abound. We must address the threats leading to extinction: from habitat loss and fragmentation to invasive species and deteriorating water quality.

What is happening here in Indiana is part of a larger national trend more than a third of America’s wildlife is threatened with extinction. Fortunately, we have a one-time opportunity to help save Indiana’s incredibly rich biodiversity through a bipartisan bill in Congress called the Restoration of the US Wildlife Act (RAWA). The bill aims to fund proactive, collaborative and locally led efforts to help restore endangered fish, wildlife and plant species. Indiana could receive more than $18 million per year. It is a solution that fits the scale of the nature crisis.

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The RAWA has significant bipartisan momentum. The House approved the bill in June in a bipartisan manner. The bill has more than 30 Senate co-sponsors, including 16 Republicans. Indiana’s congressional delegation could hold the key to RAWA’s fate, and we need our members of Congress to help bring this vital funding back to Indiana.

Here’s why the bill makes sense for Indiana: We can build on the locally driven and collaborative successes that are the hallmark of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). For decades, DNR has pioneered the fees and taxes paid by Hoosier hunters and fishermen to restore species such as wild turkey, bald eagle, river otter and white-tailed deer.

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Today, there isn’t the same type of funding to help at-risk species like the Indiana bat. During the summer, an Indiana bat eats as many as 3,000 insects each night, including mosquitoes and many pests. Unfortunately, the disturbance of the caves on which Indiana bats depend has led to significant population declines and eventually requires a listing under the Endangered Species Act. The latest threat is white nose syndrome, a fungus that has caused unprecedented mortality in many bat species and has now been discovered in 38 caves across the state. More than ever, Indiana bats need RAWA to fund conservation efforts such as helping remnant populations recover and exploring innovative strategies to halt the disease.

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That’s where this legislation comes in. RAWA gives Indiana the financial resources it needs to prioritize proactive, local collaboration and innovation. This bill gives Indiana the ability to now save our full spectrum of wildlife and avoid federal regulations associated with federal listing. RAWA is the ultimate ounce of prevention.

The $18 million a year for Indiana would usher in a new era for the conservation of bobwhite quail, migratory waterfowl, loggerhead shrike, Blanding’s turtles, lake sturgeon, osprey, banded pygmy sunfish, celestial warblers, green salamanders and timber rattlesnakes.

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This collaborative, nonregulatory, locally driven approach to the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act should appeal to the common sense of Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun. We hope every member of the Indiana delegation will support it once it gets to the floor.

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After all, what would Indiana be without the wildlife? Outdoor recreation generates more than $9.4 billion annually for Indiana’s economy, and this recreation depends on healthy wildlife. Our state has awe-inspiring public lands and waterways, but without our majestic wildlife, these amazing spaces will lose much of their magic.

Inactivity is the ally of extinction. We urge Indiana’s leaders to seize this incredible opportunity to save wildlife by working together to help pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. We need all Hoosiers to call Senator Young and Senator Braun and beg them to vote for wildlife by supporting the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

Dan Boritt is the executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Collin O’Mara is the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

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