The U.S. Senate has unanimously voted to pass the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, a significant piece of legislation for reauthorizing several existing wildlife conservation programs that also establishes a new federal task force to combat the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R – WY) and Senator Tom Carper (D – E), the ACE Act further exemplifies the true bi-partisan 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.
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. The EPW Committee had hosted several hearings focused on CWD this year, most recently on December 4, when they discussed forming a CWD Task Force in conjunction with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“SCI has been involved with advancing this legislation since its earliest days in committee, and we commend Senator Barrasso and Senator Carper for their leadership on this. It’s inspiring to see elected officials across party lines to show their commitment to sustainably managing our nation’s rich wildlife populations,'” said SCI CEO Laird Hamberlin. “The prioritization of combating Chronic Wasting Disease by the federal government is long overdue. Deer, elk, and moose are arguably America’s most iconic species, and we can no longer be complacent about addressing threats to those species. As such, the House of Representatives needs to prioritize the ACE Act’s passage before adjourning their fall hearings.
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.
Also included in the bill is a provision to modernize the Pittman-Robertson Fund to align with current needs more readily, most notably providing state fish and wildlife agencies with the financial flexibility to bolster their marketing plans and expand access to learn-to-hunt programs. Created in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson fund for wildlife conservation is supported by excise taxes on guns and gear purchased by hunters. This legislation directs a portion of that money towards hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation programs to address the decline in hunting participation across the United States.
“The Senate is working together to protect wildlife,” said Senator Barrasso. “The ACE Act will help Washington work with tribes and states on conservation. Our bipartisan legislation will establish a special task force to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. It will also help protect livestock from predators. This legislation is a win for ranching communities in Wyoming. I am thankful to Ranking Member Carper for his partnership. Now it’s time for the House of Representatives to pass the ACE Act and send it to President Trump for his signature.”
“At a critical time for the future of wildlife and our planet, the ACE Act would help to improve species conservation, protect vital ecosystems and ensure outdoor recreation opportunities abound for generations to come,” said Senator Carper. “This bipartisan legislation supports locally-driven restoration and conservation programs throughout the country, many of which leverage private dollars and local partnerships to foster economic activity and job creation in the regions they serve. With no shortage of challenges facing habitat and species conservation today, the ACE Act will deliver much-needed support to those who are on the ground and working to protect the Earth and all the creatures who inhabit it.”
With the ACE Act clearing the Senate, SCI will now turn advocacy efforts towards advancing the bill out of the House of Representatives. Given the unanimous and bipartisan support for the Senate’s bill, there growing hope the House will put politics aside and prioritize this legislation for the benefit of our nation’s wildlife populations and future generations.
After clearing both the House and Senate, the legislation will now head to President Trump’s desk for signature.