Policy Watch

In December, H.R. 3979, the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, under suspension of the rules, by a vote of 371-14, was agreed to in the Senate by voice vote in April 2018 and soon after signed by the president. This legislation will reauthorize the National Wildlife Refuge System volunteer, community partnership and education programs that help ensure Americans can visit, explore, fish, hunt, and study wildlife for generations to come.

America’s 566 National Wildlife Refuges are located in all 50 states and the five territories. They make up 150 million acres of pristine public lands dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife. Wildlife refuge volunteers are individuals who want to give back to their communities, parents who want to be good stewards of the land and set examples for their children, retirees willing to share their wealth of knowledge, and dedicated organizations whose continued efforts raise awareness of refuges so that they may be enjoyed by all. Their contribution is significant: in Fiscal Year ‘16, 40,000 volunteers donated 1.4 million hours. The value of their time contribution is equal to $30.6 million. The loss of their service would also be significant: volunteers and groups make up 20% of the total service work product or the equivalent of 649 full-time employees.

ASA strongly supports this legislation and appreciates the leadership of Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in authoring the bill, along with original cosponsors Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Garret Graves (R-La.), Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) as well as Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) who introduced the Senate companion bill, S. 1940.

For more information, please contact Conservation Director, Mike Leonard.