New legislation aims to save at-risk species in Michigan

Jul 22, 2019 at 11:21 am
A new bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell would put almost $1.4 billion a year toward pulling at-risk animal and plant species back from the brink — with about $27 million of that for Michigan.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act would allow states and tribes to better implement their wildlife action plans to help save 12,000 species of concern, mostly by preserving habitat.

It has bipartisan support, and Rep. Dingell said now is the time to act.

"Do you know that one-third of all our wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction? And if we don't start to work now, it's going to be gone," Dingell said. "I know this sounds corny, but can you imagine us without the monarch butterfly?"

Habitat restoration is key, so states are now planting more milkweed, the monarch butterfly's favorite food, arguing this is far less expensive than the restrictions and lawsuits that would result if the butterfly has to be put on the endangered species list.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, noted 304 species in Michigan are considered to be of greatest conservation need.

"The best way to save these species, frankly, is to invest in proactive conservation now, before they reach a crisis point trying to bring them back," O'Mara said. "The ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Amy Derosier, planning and adaptation section supervisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said the state has already made significant progress with species like the peregrine falcon, trumpeter swan and the Kirtland's warbler.

"And the Kirtland's Warbler, they were one of the first species to be on the federal Endangered Species Act, and they're getting close to coming off of that list," Derosier said. "So, when we work together and when we put resources, we really can move the needle and really see a difference."

Derosier said programs to improve water quality would go a long way toward saving many at-risk species of fish, mussels and birds. It also would bolster the state's outdoor economy, which generates more than $11 billion a year.

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