Up to a third of the nation's wildlife species are at increased risk of extinction, according to a new report. In "Reversing America's Wildlife Crisis," National Wildlife Federation research shows more than 150 species are already extinct, and 500 more haven't been sighted in decades.
Joy Bannon, field director with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, said investing up front to avoid an endangered species listing - which could bring federal regulations and limits on industry - makes good economic sense and produces a better outcome for wildlife.
"If we actually have these animals in a good place, and we have the state wildlife agencies with enough money that they can put conservation measures on the ground, then we can continue doing business," Bannon said. "This is a proactive measure - it's good for business, it's good for wildlife, and it's good for taxpayers."
Bannon noted the conservation work could be paid for through royalties from resource extraction on public lands, if Congress passes the Recovering America's Wildlife Act. The measure would send $1.3 billion to states to fund state Wildlife Action Plans already in place.
State agencies have identified some 8,000 species in need of help. And the number of species petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act has increased by 1,000 percent in less than a decade.
Bruce Stein, chief scientist at the National Wildlife Federation, said the legislation would provide the kind of investment needed to address the scope of the problem.
"It would allow us to reverse the wildlife crisis and fully implement these state Wildlife Action Plans," Stein said. "It's an opportunity to make sure that we safeguard not just our conservation legacy, but this amazing diversity of wildlife species that we steward here."
Bannon added the issue is also important for states like Wyoming that depend on wildlife tourism and outdoor recreation. According to the Wyoming Business Council, the outdoor recreation industry contributes $5.6 billion to the state's economy annually, and creates 50,000 jobs.