Today, the United States House of Representatives passed by voice vote the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, in a major win for wildlife and conservation everywhere. Among other things, this legislation will reauthorize several existing wildlife and conservation programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), while also addressing high priority issues like Chronic Wasting Disease by establishing a federal taskforce to combat the deadly disease.
Introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R–WY) and Senator Tom Carper (D–E), the ACE Act further exemplifies the true bipartisan nature of wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation access issues the federal government is focused on addressing.
Safari Club International (SCI) has been an ardent supporter of this bill since it was first introduced and voted out of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee in December. In early January, SCI joined a slew of other hunting and conservation organizations on a formal letter urging the Senate to advance the ACE Act. After being delayed by amendments, the Senate finalized the passage of the bill in late September before sending it on to the House of Representatives.
One of the ACE Act’s key objectives is to highlight the threats posed by Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal disease affecting deer, elk, caribou, and moose in 26 states and 4 Canadian provinces, by establishing a federal task force to ensure that states have a coordinated plan to research, surveil and manage the spread. While CWD is not causing widespread reductions in deer populations, it represents a significant threat to hunting and wildlife management in North America.
According to Senator Barrasso, “This task force will bring states, relevant federal agencies, scientists, managers, and farmers to the table. Together they can better coordinate prevention and control efforts and target future research to address unanswered questions.
The bill also reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which leverages private investments to improve millions of acres of wetlands, making it one of our nation’s most effective voluntary conservation programs and a huge win for waterfowl hunters everywhere.
Among other things, the ACE Act will
- Reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act until 2025;
- Reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Act until 2025;
- Reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2025;
- Commission a study by the National Academy of Sciences regarding the pathways and mechanisms of the transmission of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the United States;
- Establish a CWD task force to develop an interstate action plan for state and federal cooperation relating to the disease;
- Establish a program to provide grants to states and Indian tribes to compensate livestock producers for losses due to predation by federally protected species such as wolves or grizzly bears;
- Authorize the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue depredation permits to livestock producers to allow for the taking of black vultures or common ravens under specified circumstances during calving or lambing season; and
After clearing both the House and Senate, the legislation will now head to President Trump’s desk for signature.