Deer in Spring Landscape

Maryland's
Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan

Background Information

photo of Potomac River Flood plain

The history of wildlife management in this country has been primarily focused on game management. A snapshot of wildlife legislation of the twentieth century illustrates this.

The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 (Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act) was designed to support selection, restoration, rehabilitation and improvement of wildlife habitat, research and information distribution. A 1970 amendment added hunter training programs and maintenance and support of public target ranges. Because the funding is derived from excise taxes on the sale of sporting arms, hand guns, ammunition, and archery equipment, the focus on game species seemed logical.

The Dingell-Johnston Act of 1950 (Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act) intended a similar program as Pittman-Robertson for the management, conservation, and restoration of fishery resources. Similarly, funding is derived from the sale of fishing gear. An amendment adopted in 1990 hinted at a shift in the our understanding of the needs of wildlife and fish with the call for wetlands conservation, as habitat protection.

Legislation supporting non-game species, although in existence, has been hampered by smaller funding sources and, more importantly by a lack of understanding as to what a non-game species is. We have legislation protecting migratory birds, some of which are game species and some not. We have legislation protecting rare and endangered species but what about those species which are not covered by the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts which are not endangered?

In 1980, the Forsythe-Chaffee Act (Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act) was passed. This act called for comprehensive wildlife management plans, including non-game species. This was a step in the right direction as it supported integrating efforts to keep the common species common, in addition to managing for game and conservation of rare species. Unfortunately, although the legislation was passed, the funding was never forthcoming.

photo of Praying Mantis devouring a Fence Lizard

Fast forward to the 1990’s. A coalition of state management agencies, known as Teaming With Wildlife (www.teaming.com) , private commercial ventures and individuals amasses bipartisan support for the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). This act would have guaranteed a long term funding source (15 years) to support efforts in state, federal and local conservation programs. The goals of Title III of this act were threefold: 1 – to prevent species from becoming endangered, 2- to enhance outdoor recreation experiences, and 3 – to foster a responsible stewardship ethic through conservation education. Although CARA passed a House vote in 2000 and 2001, it never made it to the Senate floor.

Instead, the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Act provided a smaller, temporary funding source in 2000, called the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration Program (WCRP). These monies were transferred to the Department of the Interior, intending to enhance fish and wildlife conservation and restoration efforts, including wildlife related education and recreation projects.

This brings us to the present and the next major funding source for wildlife conservation, the State Wildlife Grants (SWG). These monies, derived from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, were first appropriated for FY 2002 in the Department of the Interior’s appropriations budget, and continued annually, with current discussions on FY 2005. This program aims to fill the holes left by previous legislation. The goal is not only to protect and restore endangered species but to keep the common species from becoming endangered in the first place. Until now, we have lacked the means to plan and prioritize comprehensively for all wildlife, due to limited funding and limited programs. The creation of the Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan allows MD State agencies and their partners to do this.

The coalition of state agencies and private and commercial partners that spearheaded the effort to obtain stable, long-term funding deserve our thanks for making tremendous strides toward that goal. Once wildlife conservation plans have been developed, it is hoped that Congress will be able to rely on this information to set reasonable funding thresholds to meet our long-term wildlife conservation objectives. Keep abreast of progress via www.teaming.com.