Sportsmen and Global Warming

You may have seen the story in the Oct. 25 edition of USA Today pointing to the decline in licensed hunters nationwide (" American hunter is a vanishing breed," USA Today, Oct. 25 ). The story brought up the very real concern that the decline in hunting licenses means a decline in fees to pay for important state wildlife conservation efforts.

This news would be disheartening if not for one important piece of information the story left out. There is a major piece of legislation on the table in the U.S. Senate right now that could solve this problem.

Recently, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-CT and John Warner, R-VA, introduced the bipartisan America's Climate Security Act of 2007. The bill requires large emitters such as power plants and oil refineries to collectively cut their greenhouse gas emissions every year, starting in 2012, at a pace scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic climate changes. It sets the pace for reductions at about 2 percent per year, cutting emissions to 15% below current levels by the year 2020, and 70% below current levels by 2050.

The revenue generated from this 'cap and trade' system will be significant. Thanks to many advocates within the hunting and angling community, a provision in the bill would set aside at least $125 billion over several years for wildlife conservation efforts to help wildlife survive the impacts of climate change.

This substantial funding would go to states and federal agencies to protect America's fish and wildlife, our great waters, and other natural resources from the climate changes that can no longer be avoided. A rapidly warming world is the greatest threat facing wildlife. What affects wildlife ultimately affects people, so the time is now to develop the best strategies to protect the landscapes and habitats they - and we - depend on.

This bill has widespread support from the hunting and angling community. A letter from 27 sportsmen groups was sent to Lieberman and Warner applauding their effort: "Your carefully-crafted proposal will help ensure the long-term survival of fish and wildlife by providing important new resources through direct spending to address the impacts of climate change." Another letter was released today, this one from the Teaming With Wildlife Coalition representing 5,000 groups working to protect wildlife.

Here are the details of how the money would be allocated:

  • 40% to the Interior Department, and subsequently made available to states and tribal governments, through the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Account established under the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.
  • 20% to the Interior Department for use in funding endangered species, migratory bird, and other fish and wildlife programs.
  • 5% to the Interior Department for implementing cooperative grant programs that benefit wildlife.
  • 5% to the Secretary of Agriculture for use in funding adaptation activities carried out on National Forests and National Grasslands under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service.
  • 12.5% to EPA for use in restoring large-scale freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and large-scale estuarine ecosystems.
  • 12.5% to the Army Corps for use in restoring large-scale freshwater and estuarine ecosystems.
  • 5% to the Commerce Department for use in implementing cooperative grant programs such as the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, the Community-Based Restoration Program, and programs established under the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Each state has a Wildlife Action Plan which identifies important wildlife species and natural areas in need of conservation. These plans and their parent program, State Wildlife Grants, have been hailed as one of the most promising vehicles by which state wildlife agencies can protect wildlife from global warming. The Lieberman-Warner bill directs revenues to funding these grants.

The bill also helps low-income families. It is the first to provide detailed provisions to aid a just transition to a clean energy future for low- and middle-income families. A significant amount of revenue generated from the cap and trade system will be used for programs such as the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program and others targeting those hit hardest by the impacts of global warming. The bill also provides resources for training a clean energy workforce.

The prospects for Congress passing legislation with real solutions to reduce global warming are getting better day by day. As this bill moves to the Senate floor, it will mark the first head-on Senate debate about the bold steps that must be taken to avert the worst impacts of global warming. While there have been other votes in 2003 and 2005 on Senate global warming bills, this is the most comprehensive bill ever proposed . Meanwhile, report after report from the scientific community has made clear that there is no time for delay.

The defining issue of the 21st century is whether or not we will muster the political will to confront global warming. This is not an issue of left or right; it is an issue of right or wrong. I encourage you to study the bill and inform your readers about this upcoming debate.

--FROM National Wildlife Federation

Detailed assessment of the bill is available at nwf.org/news .