2015 Maryland Statewide Action Plan

Background Information on State Wildlife Funding

Maryland’s current State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) is funded by federal monies, known as the State Wildlife Grants Program, or SWG. These funds, distributed from an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress, are designed to address development and implementation of programs that benefit wildlife and their habitats, including species not hunted or fished, and especially Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The SWAP is a requirement for the receipt of SWG funds. This 2015 SWAP is a revision of the original 2005 Wildlife Diversity Conservation Plan, which was completed in 2005.

State Wildlife Grant funds are distributed to the fish and wildlife agencies of states, commonwealths, and U.S. territories through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Funds are apportioned using a formula based on a state’s land area and population. Grant funds must be used to address conservation needs, such as research, surveys, species and habitat management, and monitoring, identified within a state’s comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy (now known as SWAPs).

Examples of projects in Maryland which have been funded by State Wildlife Grants include:

The BioNet Map

The Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas

Blackbanded Sunfish Protection

For more information regarding the State Wildlife Grants Program.

Modern funding of wildlife management in this country has evolved over the last 100 years. Historically, such management programs were focused on game species. 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 to conserve wetlands reflected a recent shift in the understanding of the needs of non-game species protection.

Implementation of existing legislation supporting non-game species 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. What about those species which are not covered by the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts which are not listed as 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. Although the legislation was passed, the funding was never forthcoming.

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 amassed 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 the 2002 fiscal year in the Department of the Interior’s appropriations budget. These funds have been continued annually, although funding for states has dropped more than 35% compared to 2002 levels. 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 State Wildlife Action Plan allows Maryland 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 deserves our thanks for making tremendous strides toward that goal. Once wildlife action plans are developed Congress can rely on this information to set reasonable funding thresholds to meet long-term wildlife conservation objectives.