Dingell bipartisan conservation funding bill passes House

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — A bill that would invest nearly $1.4 billion per year to protect fish and wildlife sponsored by Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell was approved Tuesday by the U.S. House.

The bill, which cleared the House on a vote of 231 to 190, would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Act to provide funding for state, territorial and Tribal governments to implement wildlife management and conservation plans.

It was co-sponsored by 42 Republicans and 152 Democrats. Several of those Republican co-sponsors ended up voting against the bill, which passed with 16 Republicans voting yes and two Democrats voting no.

US Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, left, talks with Mothering Justice National Executive Director and Founder Danielle Atkinson during the roundtable meeting, Saturday afternoon October 23, 2021.

"The United States is facing an unprecedented biodiversity crisis," Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Tuesday on the House floor.

Around one third of U.S. wildlife is at increased risk of extinction, according to a fact sheet provided by Dingell's office. Bird populations have decreased almost 30% in the U.S. and Canada since 1970 and around 12,000 wildlife species have been identified as "in need of conservation assistance."

"These developments threaten our common environmental heritage, reduce opportunities for outdoor recreation and will require costly and aggressive interventions if not addressed soon," Dingell said. "We have a conservation, economic and moral rationale to act in order to protect and recover America's wildlife for future generations."

The legislation would appropriate $850 million in fiscal year 2023, $1.1 billion in 2024, $1.2 billion in 2025 and nearly $1.3 billion in 2026 and every fiscal year after that toward wildlife management and conservation programs.

At least 15% of the funding would have to go to protecting endangered species and 10% would go to "innovation grants" for new strategies or techniques to do so, according to the bill.

On the House floor Tuesday, Republicans argued the legislation would create a reckless level of spending by creating a permanent funding requirement. 

"Although protecting our endangered species is truly a worthy cause, our country is not fiscally sound. To commit $1.4 billion a year in perpetuity is exactly the kind of spending that's landed us in this mess," said Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Oregon. "Let me be clear: We do not have the money."

An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would cost $12.7 billion over the first decade and would not bring in any revenue to offset the cost. 

"We know that stable, predictable funding is critical to effective conservation efforts," Dingell retorted, adding that the leading hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation groups weighed in on the legislation and that outdoor recreation contributes to billions in economic activity. 

An amendment by Michigan Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township, was also added to the bill Tuesday. Their amendment would make it possible for efforts to control and prevent invasive species to qualify for funding under the bill.

The legislation will now go to a Senate committee for consideration. 


Twitter: @rbeggin