House passes America’s Conservation Enhancement Act

By Laura Bies, The Wildlife Society

Posted on October 8, 2020

 The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, passed by Congress last week, increases the authorization level to $60 million annually for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

The U.S. House of Representative passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051), which includes reauthorization for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and funding to combat invasive species, last week.

The package of conservation measures, which was previously passed by the Senate, now goes to the president for his signature.

The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act includes several conservation provisions that leverage public and private funding to advance conservation. The bill reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Program. Under the bill, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which has helped conserve more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds, would increase its authorized level to $60 million annually for the next five years. In recent years, NAWCA has received around $45 million in funding each year from Congress.

Alongside these reauthorizations, the bill would establish a new chronic wasting disease coordinating task force and help ensure states have a coordinated plan to research, test and respond to CWD. It would also provide $5 million annually, split between the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, for the next five years to combat invasive species.

In addition, the bill would set up an advisory board to develop a new award for reducing human-predator conflict. These prizes were first developed last year, after being included in a package of bills focused on public lands and conservation.

“The ‘America’s Conservation Enhancement Act’ is important legislation that reauthorizes key conservation programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act,” said Caroline Murphy, AWB®, government relations manager at The Wildlife Society. “This bill also provides resources and support to wildlife professionals to help address invasive species and wildlife diseases — key natural resource management challenges.”

Under one controversial provision, the Environmental Protection Agency is prevented from regulating lead in fishing tackle, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, for the next five years. Lead in ammunition is also exempt from regulation under TSCA. Lead is not permitted for use in waterfowl hunting, and regarding lead in recent years.

The legislation was first introduced by the chair and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) in Dec. 2019. In June, The Wildlife Society and partners reached out to lawmakers to encourage passage of the ACE Act.

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