A Bold and WILD Act in Support of Wyoming’s Wildlife Heritage
By: Colin O’Mara, Dwayne Meadows
April 20, 2019
Casper Star Tribune

From pronghorn, mule deer and elk to bison, bighorn sheep and western meadowlarks, the iconic wildlife of Wyoming are the envy of the nation. Yet right now, more than 175 different wildlife species in Wyoming are identified as species of greatest conservation need.

This reflects a broader trend across our nation, with more than one-third of all species at risk or vulnerable to extinction. Overcoming this escalating wildlife crisis demands 21st century solutions, rooted in unprecedented collaboration and innovation, to pull iconic species and unsung heroes alike back from the brink.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso has emerged as a leading champion of advancing conservation through collaboration and innovation. He knows that we can most effectively restore wildlife populations and conserve healthy natural resources by working together on the ground and spurring innovative solutions.

After all, it is much more effective and much less expensive to recover at-risk wildlife populations by investing in proactive, collaborative conservation measures, before the species decline to the point where they’re endangered and require regulatory protections.

A perfect example of Senator Barrasso’s conservation leadership is embedded in the bipartisan John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. When President Trump signed this historic bill into law, much of the attention was rightly placed on the numerous significant land designations and the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has supported more than $132 million of investment in Wyoming’s world-class parks and trails.

But also contained within this landmark legislation was the critically important Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) Act, which Senator Barrasso wrote with Democratic Delaware Senator Tom Carper.

The WILD Act provides a range of new tools for conservationists, biologists and landowners to spur innovative new strategies to confront poaching and trafficking, reduce threats from invasive species and support collaborative conservation partnerships. Specifically, the bill:

— Reauthorizes the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to incentivize landowners who provide habitat for migratory birds and threatened and endangered species;

— Strengthens the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act to improve the management, prevention and control of invasive species;

— Establishes the Theodore Roosevelt Genius Grant program to incentivize innovative solutions to prevent wildlife poaching and trafficking; invasive species and promote non-lethal wildlife conflict management;

— Reauthorizes the Marine Turtle Conservation Act through 2024 and expand it to cover imperiled freshwater turtles and tortoises;

— Reauthorizes multinational species conservation acts to reduce poaching, trafficking and habitat loss afflicting great apes, Asian and African elephants, tigers, rhinoceros and sea turtles.

At a time when bipartisanship is in short supply in Washington, Senator Barrasso is showing that wildlife conservation is a rare issue that can still bring together Republicans and Democrats. The WILD Act would simply not have passed without his tireless leadership and wonderfully stubborn insistence that it be included in the final package.

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with him to help recover the full diversity of America’s wildlife and ensure that Wyoming’s unrivalled outdoor heritage thrives for generations to come.

Collin O’Mara is president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. Dwayne Meadows is executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.