Conservationists: Recovering America's Wildlife Act critical to save species
Environmental groups are calling efforts over the past half-century to restore the wild turkey population from the brink of extinction one of America's greatest wildlife success stories.
Conservationists in Michigan are now calling on Congress to pass pending legislation which would help wildlife agencies duplicate those efforts to save hundreds of threatened species. The bipartisan Recovering America's Wildlife Act would allocate $1.4 billion annually to protect fish, wildlife and plants for future generations.
John Kanter, senior biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said it is a matter of scaling up current efforts to protect more species.
"The Recovering America's Wildlife Act is on the cusp of being passed through Congress," Kanter explained. "That money would go to states, territories and tribal nations to restore populations of wildlife."
Wild turkeys had all but disappeared from Michigan by 1900 due to habitat loss and unregulated hunting. According to Michigan State University, population re-establishment efforts between 1919 and 1983 successfully restored the species in every county of the Lower Peninsula, and some parts of the Upper Peninsula.
The Recovering America's Wildlife Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year and is awaiting action by the Senate, where there are more than 40 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Kanter emphasized lawmakers urgently need to approve the bill before the current session closes at the end of the year.
"Let's get to species, understand their populations, what they need to thrive before they head towards extinction," Kanter advised.
Kanter noted in the 1950s, there were only about 30,000 wild turkeys left in the country, but a concerted effort by government agencies and conservation groups between 1970 and the early 2000s restored habitat and reintroduced turkeys to places where they had been eliminated. There are currently an estimated 7 million wild turkeys across the U.S.