It’s an unquestionable fact that the aquatic fauna of the Southeast is in peril. Yet through scientific research, education, and restoration and conservation efforts, as well as through sound individual, family, business, and community decisions truly made with environmental sustainability as a priority, this perilous trend can be curbed if not reversed. Luckily for all of us, more and more people are realizing the value of our natural surroundings and are willing to make the important decisions needed to eliminate environmental degradation.
Obtaining funds to drive programs aimed at maintaining and bettering our environment has often been difficult. And, as the information in this volume demonstrates, most of the aquatic species that are in peril within the Southeast (and elsewhere) are non-game species. As such, funds available to assist their preservation are relatively scarce. Just how scarce? A recent pamphlet distributed by B. Hatcher (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency) stated that since the 1930s, nationwide federal aid funds have totaled $3.4 million per game species, $42,000 per endangered species, and $11 per non-game species. The present methods of funding wildlife preservation efforts have been mentioned throughout this book as a major stumbling block which threatens to allow the continued dwindling of our precious natural heritage.
Working with other concerned stakeholders, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) has drafted a proposal which would raise the dedicated funds required to fund the research, conservation and restoration, and education projects needed to assist non-game wildlife. Patterned after the highly successful Pittman-Robertson and Wallop-Breaux programs which provide funding for projects working with game species of wildlife and sport fish restoration, the IAFWA’s proposal, called Teaming With Wildlife, would raise program dollars via a very modest "user fee" which would be linked to outdoor recreation equipment not already tied to either the Pittman-Robertson or Wallop-Breaux programs. The exact amount of the fee would be based on a percentage of the manufacturer’s price of the product (ranging from a low of 0.25% to a maximum of 5%), and would be reflected in an increased retail price paid by the consumer. While this fee is modest, the volume of annual sales linked to the program is very significant and will yield the funds necessary to assist our imperiled and non-imperiled wildlife. For example, as reported by B. Hatcher (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency), if the Teaming With Wildlife program had been in effect in 1996, the average cost per Tennessee participant would have been only about $6.00. However, this minimal cost per user would have resulted in a national fund of $350 million. This fund would have contributed about $6.3 million for Tennessee, and with Tennessee’s 25% match would have resulted in about $8.4 million for Tennessee’s non-game wildlife. Similar benefits throughout the nation would go far to help resolve funding problems associated with programs focusing on non-game species.
Teaming With Wildlife funds would be allocated to each state using a formula based on the population (2/3) and land area (1/3) of each state. No state or territory would receive less than 0.5% or more than 5% of the total funds. States and territories will need to match these funds with non-federal dollars on a 25% state to 75% federal basis. Matching funds can be cash or in-kind donations, and states will have the flexibility to tailor particular programs to meet the unique and varying needs found across the country. A grants program will also be created for projects with regional or national significance. No new bureaucracy will be created through the proposed legislation, and program administrative costs will be capped at 6%.
A notable coalition has formed in support of the Teaming With Wildlife initiative, and the Teaming With Wildlife proposal has been endorsed by over 2,000 conservation and recreation organizations and related businesses. However, now is the time for all of us who care about our native wildlife to rally in support of Teaming With Wildlife.
How can you help? Well for one, you can learn more about the Teaming With Wildlife initiative by contacting your state fish and wildlife agency or the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (444 North Capital Street, NW, Suite 544, Washington, DC 20001; phone (202) 624-7890; FAX (202) 624-7891; Web Site: http//www.gorp.com/teamww/twwindex.htm).
Once you are familiar with the easy to understand proposal we encourage you to help make a difference:
1) by encouraging your organization or business to endorse the initiative in writing.
2) by writing letters to outdoor magazine, newsletter, and newspaper editors to promote public awareness of Teaming With Wildlife.
3) by writing letters of endorsement to outdoor-related suppliers regarding Teaming With Wildlife.
4) by encouraging your outdoor-related retailers to endorse Teaming With Wildlife.
5) by encouraging your outdoor-related retailers to advise their suppliers of their support for Teaming With Wildlife.
6) by advising your Congressman and Senator of your support for Teaming With Wildlife.
Legislation will be required to set the Teaming With Wildlife initiative in place. Working together we can express the wide-felt concern about our native wildlife which will drive this important legislation. Please act today.