The House of Representatives’ version of the Biden administration's $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” Act was packaged together and passed by the House Budget Committee on Saturday and includes titles from both the Natural Resources and Agriculture Committees. These titles in the reconciliation bill contain badly needed investments in endangered species protections while also creating jobs to address the dual climate and biodiversity crises and Defenders of Wildlife is pleased to see the commitments made to wildlife and our nation’s natural infrastructure.
“This bill would fund a number of priorities aimed at addressing the climate and the biodiversity crises by investing in protections for endangered species and creating jobs, all of which have long been overdue,” said Mary Beth Beetham, director of legislative affairs for Defenders of Wildlife. “Chief among them is the Arctic Natural Wildlife Refuge, a vast wilderness critical to conserving the nation’s biodiversity and an indigenous culture, which would benefit through the repeal of a fiscally failed oil and gas drilling program which is truly bad business during a climate crisis.”
The bill includes key wins from two committees: Natural Resources and Agriculture.
Natural Resources Committee wins include:
• A repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Oil and Gas Program and a directive to buy back leases that generated less than 0.1% of the revenue promised to American taxpayers.
• $340 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to implement the Endangered Species Act (ESA), our nation’s most effective tool for preventing extinction.
- $75 million would go directly to recovering threatened and endangered species.
- $75 million would go to at-risk species awaiting protection under the ESA.
- $100 million would go to supporting biodiversity by preventing the extinction of four imperiled groups of species (island plants, pollinators, freshwater mussels, and desert fish).
- $50 million for developing and updating Habitat Conservation Plans, a critical tool to help protect species while states, local governments, and private landowners carry out economic activities.
- $40 million for ESA consultation so that federally led or permitted projects, including critical infrastructure projects, can move forward efficiently while also protecting imperiled species.
• $200 million for the FWS to protect grasslands and make lands more climate resilient by investing in projects that reduce damages from extreme weather events, address invasive species, and restore habitat.
• $10 million to identify, conserve, and restore Wildlife Corridors.
• $3 billion would go to the Department of the Interior to implement Civilian Climate Corps programs. By building a strong workforce dedicated to conserving public lands from threats like climate change, this program will restore and rehabilitate the lands and waters managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management.
“Investments in conservation of endangered species have been grossly insufficient for too long. Its been a very harsh reality, so this bill is a breath of relief,” said Beetham. “Of the 1,600 listed U.S. species, more than 1,200 of them have no recovery plans or they have plans that are at least a decade old and may not contain current scientific information or take into account climate change. Some of these species receive less than $1,000 per year and many others may receive none at all.”
Agriculture Committee Wins include:
- $50 million for the protection and recovery of the more than 480 at-risk species in the National Forest System.
- $50 million for the protection of old-growth forests.
- $450 million would be is provided for the Legacy Roads and Trails program. The program has already fixed over 1,000 culverts nationwide and enables the Forest Service to reconnect wildlife habitat by decommissioning unneeded logging roads and restoring hundreds of miles of aquatic habitat.
- $50 million to promote and implement nonlethal livestock-predator conflict deterrence techniques across the country.
“We are incredibly grateful for such significant investments in combatting the climate and biodiversity crises and urge the Senate to continue to prioritize our nation’s imperiled species and the places they call home,” said Beetham.
Finally, both the Natural Resources and Agriculture committee titles include billions of dollars worth of funding to prevent and mitigate wildfires. These investments focus on areas where people and property are most at risk by funding projects in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Funds also would be provided to restore ecosystem health outside of the WUI by funding collaborative projects focused on ecological thinning and prescribed burning.
“These investments are targeted—importantly—toward maximizing ecological benefits, not commercial profits,” said Beetham.
In the upcoming weeks the full House is expected to vote on the “Build Back Better Act.” The final bill will move to the Senate for consideration and markup.