May 24 2021
Washington–Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and a group of their colleagues today sent a letter advocating for increased funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Recovery Challenge Grant program. The letter was also signed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The letter to the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee highlights the success of the Recovery Challenge Grant program in helping restore the California condor population, which now number over 500 – rebounding from a recent low of just 22 birds. Increased funding of these proven public-private partnerships means the potential for more species to find a similar success story.
“While the Recovery Challenge Grant program has proven extremely effective, there are many more species in peril and the demand for these grants far exceeds the allocated funding,” the senators wrote. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received far more worthy applications than could be awarded. In order to ensure that species like the Southern Sea Otter, the Pacific Pocket Mouse, Eastern Indigo Snake, Ozark Hellbender, and Florida Panther do not disappear, we need additional investment in this program.
“The Recovery Challenge Grant program promises to power unique and impactful partnerships with groups like ours who are working to recover endangered and threatened species, including southern sea otters. Expanding this proven program will have meaningful impact on recovering America’s ocean keystone and ESA-listed species,” said Margaret Spring, Chief Conservation and Science Officer, Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“Recovery Challenge Grants have been instrumental in helping San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance bring species back from the brink to extinction, including the iconic California condor, whose numbers were as low as 22 in the 1980s and now soar to more than 500,” said Andrea Caldwell of the San Diego Wildlife Alliance.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
The Honorable Jeff Merkley, Chair
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Merkley and Ranking Member Murkowski:
We write to request your continued support for endangered species recovery in the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Specifically, we are requesting increased funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Recovery Challenge Grant program.
We thank the members of the subcommittee for establishing the Recovery Challenge Grant in Fiscal Year 2018 and for their continued support for this program. Recovery Challenge Grants are an important tool for addressing the extinction crisis threatening our nation. The Recovery Challenge leverages private sector funding through a required match, which means that every taxpayer dollar going towards endangered species recovery through this grant must be matched by at least an equal amount from grantees. These grants leverage the scientific expertise and resources of nonprofit partners in the field to promote faster and more efficient recovery of endangered and threatened species.
The Recovery Challenge Grant program has grown from a relatively small program, lending support to a few key species, to an important cooperative force benefiting the recovery of myriad species. In Fiscal Year 2020, the Recovery Challenge Grant program supported 39 partnerships across the country to recover endangered and threatened species such as critically endangered Hawaiian birds, Stellar’s eiders in Alaska, the American red wolf, Houston toads, and whooping cranes in the Eastern U.S.
One of the most iconic species supported by the Recovery Challenge Grant is the highly successful public-private partnership to save the California condor. Together, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State agencies, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, The Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Ventana Wildlife Society, and several other nonprofit partners have provided critical genetic management, breeding, rearing, and releases into the wild to aid in the recovery of the iconic California condor. From a population low of 22 birds, the species is near being down-listed with a population that numbers more than 500 California condors, with more than 300 of which are living in the wild. The federal assistance provided by the Recovery Challenge Grant has helped make this recovery success story possible.
While the Recovery Challenge Grant program has proven extremely effective, there are many more species in peril and the demand for these grants far exceeds the allocated funding. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received far more worthy applications than could be awarded. In order to ensure that species like the Southern Sea Otter, the Pacific Pocket Mouse, Eastern Indigo Snake, Ozark Hellbender, and Florida Panther do not disappear, we need additional investment in this program.
As the Subcommittee develops the Fiscal Year 2022 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we urge you provide continued funding for endangered species recovery and prioritize recovery efforts in which resources and partner expertise can be most effectively leveraged. Specifically, we request an increase for Endangered Species Act Recovery actions to $120 million and an increase for the Recovery Challenge Grant program to $20 million. This funding will enable critical recovery partnerships to sustain their work and expand to new species that are imperiled.
Thank you for your attention to this important request.