When it comes to lions, tigers, and bears, most animal lovers agree that they need to be protected. But what about the more common animals in Kansas? The state is teeming with deer, foxes, coyotes and more. And many people would also like to protect these creatures. Commentator Rex Buchanan tells us about a bipartisan effort in Congress that might help.
Commentator Rex Buchanan is screenwriter and director emeritus at the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. The Lawrence resident is also a co-author of the book Kansas Smoky Hills Petroglyphs.
Learn more about the US Wildlife Act Recovery.
Kansans love to discuss wildlife. In the west, they speak of antelopes and mule deer, kit foxes and magpies, burrowing owls and sometimes even bears. Seeing a hare can lead to a long conversation about rabbits of yesteryear. Here in eastern Kansas, people raise deer and coyotes, opossums and raccoons, and sometimes even bobcats. I don’t know how many conversations I’ve heard about armadillos migrating north. I wish I had a penny for every Facebook post where someone’s trail camera shows a mountain lion.
Not that Kansans are unusual. People everywhere are animal lovers.
But sometimes love is not enough.
With habitat destruction across the country, all kinds of species are in trouble. Take birds. About 30% of birds in North America – three billion birds in total – have disappeared in recent decades. Before that, we heard about the reduction in frog and toad populations. Now monarch butterflies and other invertebrates.
We choose certain species on purpose, such as prairie dogs. Other times, animals are just collateral damage from pesticides and herbicides. But much of the impact on animals is the consequence of habitat reduction and fragmentation. Uprooting grasslands for cultivation, housing, energy development. Drying up of wetlands. Drying up of rivers.
Now there is a bill in Congress it might help.
I know that the mere phrase “a bill in Congress” probably creates nightmarish thoughts of deadlock in Congress, cynical specters of inaction at best, and vicious political partisan fights at worst.
But this bill, the Recover US Wildlife Act, appears to have broad enough support to be adopted. It passed the House and is now in the Senate.
This bill sets aside $1.3 billion a year for states to protect and restore wildlife, fish, and certain plants. In Kansas, that’s $17 million a year.
A lot of that money would probably go to habitat restoration. Grasslands, like those in Kansas, are among the most threatened ecosystems, not only by development, but also by invasive species. Playas, the ephemeral lakes exposed to the west in wet weather, are important for waterfowl and deserve protection. The needs are many.
Let’s be clear, this bill does not represent runaway federal spending. It is money already generated by hunting and fishing licenses and other fees, money that can now be used exactly as it should be. And before you worry about government overreach, know that any work supported by this money will be done with willing landowners, people who volunteer to help preserve the species.
I’m not necessarily advocating a political call to action here. Kansas senators Moran and Marshall have both signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, so their support should be strong. Although it couldn’t hurt them to hear a message of support for the bill.
Because, in all honesty, we leave the world a poorer place than we found it, in terms of wildlife. Our interest and our good intentions are not enough. It’s time we put our money where our mouths are, when it comes to those species we claim to love.