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Tribes say wildlife act could help correct conservation funding disparities

Joshua Haiar

Tribal wildlife managers say a wildlife recovery bill awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate could provide their programs with much-needed funding.

The Recovering America's Wildlife Act (RAWA) would redirect $1.3 billion per year in existing tax revenues to provide wildlife project funds for states and $97.5 million per year for tribes.

Tribal wildlife departments say the funding is long overdue, given previous conservation bills have sidelined tribes.

Ben Janis, director of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation has been with the department for 30 years. Janis is hopeful RAWA will address federal funding disparities.

"It's been a long time coming. I mean, the state has been getting the Dingell-Johnson and Pittman-Robertson money for years, and we could never get any of that. So, this is finally a funding stream that is permanent for our program, which would allow us to do a lot more things on the reservation as far as wildlife habitat," Janis said.

The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 and the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 have raised billions for conservation projects by taxing hunting and fishing equipment.

But tribes in South Dakota don't see those tax dollars.

Rep. Dusty Johnson voted against a House version of RAWA in June when the measure passed with bipartisan support.

Sens. Rounds and Thune did not respond to a request for comment — however, state conservation groups involved with the bill say the Senators have concerns about funding and plan to vote against it as well.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks department has identified 104 species in the state that need additional measures and protections to stay off the endangered list.

Joshua is the business and economics reporter with SDPB News.
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