Should the North American Wetlands Conservation Act be Reauthorized Through FY2024?
Do you support the North American Wetlands Conservation Act?
by Legislative Vehicle 'Junkyard' | 9.30.20
House Democrats amended H.R. 925 to serve as the legislative vehicle for a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The summary below is of H.R. 925 in its original form, when it was the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act.
What is House Bill H.R. 925?
This bill — the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act — would reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) through FY2024. Under NAWCA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) awards competitive grants to conserve wetlands in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in two cycles a year. NAWCA’s previous authorization expired at the end of FY2012, but appropriators have continued to fund it on an annual basis. Most recently, it received $42 million for FY2019.
Argument In Favor
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) is an important, cost-effective source of support and funding for conservation efforts that keep wetlands healthy. It should be reauthorized to ensure that the grants it funds remain available.
There’s no need to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) — despite its authorization lapsing in 2012, it’s still been funded on an annual basis each year. With this in mind, Congress can keep reauthorizing NAWCA funding each year and re-assessing NAWCA each time.
Wetlands; wetlands conservation; North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA); North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants; and reauthorization of North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).
Cost of House Bill H.R. 925
The CBO estimates that this bill would cost $195 million over the 2020-2024 period, and $105 million after 2024.
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA):
“Our nation’s wetlands contain some of our most beautiful spaces and habitats that are home to a variety of diverse species. Conserving those wetlands is also a critical part of preventing future storm damage and soil erosion. That’s why I am honored to reintroduce the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a bill that funds conservation and mitigation projects at wetlands across our nation. We know that this works, in fact it’s one of our most cost-effective conservation projects. Since 1991, outside partners have invested more than $3 billion to match federal investments of $1.5 billion, well-exceeding match requirements. These investments create local jobs and boost local economies and I am proud to be fighting to ensure this program gets the funding it needs from Congress.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, says:
“From sandhill cranes to ducks like pintails and mallards, wetlands are critical for providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I am proud to help approve NAWCA grants, and I have been impressed by the program’s demonstrated success in leveraging partnerships to restore essential habitat—including the Middle Rio Grande in New Mexico. NAWCA also supports our thriving multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation economy. We must build on this conservation success to ensure our kids and grandkids will be able to hunt, fish, and enjoy our wildlife.”
Ducks Unlimited supports this bill. Its president, Rogers Hoyt, says:
“For more than 30 years, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has been a proven, cost-effective program for conserving our nation’s vital wetland and waterfowl habitat. The introduction of this bill is a strong first step to ensure the next generation of Americans, especially waterfowl hunters, have access to the same natural resources we enjoy today.”
This legislation passed the House Committee on Natural Resources by a 26-9 roll call vote with the support of 34 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 22 Democrats and 12 Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Martin Henrich (D-NM), has 39 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 20 Republicans, 18 Democrats, and one Independent.
Last Congress, this legislation was sponsored by Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA) with the support of seven Democratic House cosponsors and didn’t receive a committee vote. There wasn’t a Senate companion in the 115th Congress.
Of Note: Congress passed NAWCA in 1989 to support the protection, restoration, and enhancement of waterfowl habitat as outlined in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). NAWMP was signed by the U.S. and Canada in 1986, and by Mexico in 1994, in response to broadly declining waterfowl populations. It provides grant funding for wetland conservation projects throughout all three countries.
In its committee report, the House Committee on Natural Resources observes that NAWCA is “one of the most cost-effective conservation programs,” with each federal dollar invested in it over the program’s lifetime being matched by more than three dollars from non-federal partners at the state and local level (these include corporations, private landowners, and nonprofits).
In total, nearly 3,000 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation and restoration of nearly 30 million acres of habitat across North America. The wetlands protected and conserved under NAWCA support ecological health and biodiversity and provide opportunities for Americans to bird-watch, hunt, fish, hike, farm, and ranch.
Conserving wetlands is important for flood containment, prevention of soil erosion, and water quality improvement.
- Sponsoring Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) Press Release
- Sponsoring Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) Floor Remarks
- House Committee on Natural Resources Committee Report
- Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Press Release
- CBO Cost Estimate
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) - North American Wetlands Conservation Act (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / shaunl)
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