House Natural Resources Committee

Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee

America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act

1324 Longworth
Wed, 06 Mar 2024 15:15:00 GMT

On Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at 10:15 a.m. in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building, the Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries will hold a legislative hearing on the following bill:

Hearing memo

  • Matthew Strickler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
  • Austin Booth, Director, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Ryan Bronson, Director of Government Affairs, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Missoula, Montana
  • David P. Tenny, President and CEO, National Alliance of Forest Owners
  • Glenn Olson, Donal O’Brien Chair in Bird Conservation and Public Policy National Audubon Society, National Audubon Society, New York, New York [Minority Witness]

In 2000, Congress also created the State Wildlife Grant Program to provide critical funding to state and territory fish and wildlife agencies to implement their SWAPs to conserve at-risk fish and wildlife. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, states received a total of $67.6 million through this grant program. The formula used for apportionment to each state is one-third based on the total land area of the state and two-thirds based on the population of each state.

The AWHCA replaces the existing State Wildlife Grants Program by creating a Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Restoration subaccount under the Pittman-Roberston Act. This grant program would be authorized at no more than $300 million per fiscal year for five years. Funding would be apportioned to states based on a new formula: one-half based on the land area of the state, one-quarter based on the state’s population, and one-quarter based on the number of species listed under the ESA within that state. This change to the existing formula will allow for funding to get to the places where it is needed most.

The bill prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) from designating critical habitat on private lands that are implementing habitat conservation and restoration actions designed to conserve the species in question and approved by the Services.

The bill amends the definition of “conserve,” “conserving,” and “conservation” to allow for the regulated take of threatened species. Currently, the definition only allows for regulated take “in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved.” This standard has been interpreted by federal courts to mostly prohibit any regulated take of threatened species. This section amends the definition to allow for regulated take “at the discretion of the Secretary,” therefore granting additional flexibility to the Services.