The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

May 18, 2020

Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader McCarthy, The COVID-19 pandemic is a national crisis and the need to address the health and safety of communities as well as the economic futures of people across the nation is paramount. As Congress works to restart the American economy and put people back to work, you have an opportunity to create a large number of green, long-term jobs performing vital conservation and restoration work. Similar to the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the recovery from the Great Depression, Congress can revive the United States economy by investing $25 billion in new and existing conservation programs that will create hundreds of thousands of direct jobs and provide benefits to people, communities and the environment. On the ground conservation and restoration work has myriad benefits. Most importantly, this work is needed in virtually every corner of the United States, creates quality jobs impossible to outsource, and can provide employment opportunities for low-wealth communities, Black, Brown, Indigenous and other people of color, and younger people, all of whom are suffering disproportionately from this current economic downturn. Conservation work can—and should—be conducted in an equitable manner, guaranteeing fair wages and utilizing project labor agreements, community benefit agreements, local hire, and other provisions and practices that ensure the rights of workers and promote environmental justice. The United States can overcome this economic hardship while protecting and restoring our unique natural resources which includes a diverse array of fish and wildlife and our national wildlife refuges, forests, parks, monuments and other public lands. Restoring wildlife, wild lands and waterways contributes to significant public health benefits for all people. As Congress begins to plan for the post- pandemic recovery, we urge you to provide funding for federal agencies and existing federal grant programs to support the work of state and local governments and agencies, Tribes, public universities, and small businesses to immediately implement the following conservation and restoration projects for the benefit of all. RESTORING WILDLIFE AND PUBLIC LANDS Prioritizing Endangered Species Recovery Threatened and endangered fish, wildlife and plants are found across the United States, and every imperiled species would benefit from additional conservation work to further their recovery. Despite their importance, recovery programs have been consistently and significantly underfunded, with recent estimates indicating species receive less than one-quarter of the funding scientists indicate is required. Habitat restoration, the removal of invasive plants, the humane management of invasive animal species, and translocating and restoring species to their historic range all are contingent upon having sufficient funding and capacity. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) work in close partnership with other federal, state, local agencies, Tribal governments and private landowners, and these collaborations helped to save the California condor, gray whale, black-footed ferret, and the bald eagle from extinction. Similar work on other species could put thousands of people to work on environmentally beneficial projects in a COVID-19 stimulus bill. Recovery projects should be prioritized whenever possible when Congress funds the other conservation initiatives discussed below. Restoring Public Lands Public lands – including national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management – are crucial to the conservation of our nation’s fish and wildlife and the well-being of its people. Unfortunately, landscapes and habitats on public lands nationwide have suffered significant harm and are in need of environmental and cultural resource restoration. Similarly, much of the infrastructure associated with the use of public lands has been abandoned, left in disrepair, is no longer needed, and/or creates hazards for public land users and wildlife. We urge Congress to significantly increase funding for reclamation and restoration work on public lands to create significant job opportunities and improve the beauty, function, and safety of public lands. Examples of projects and funding recommendations include:
  • Removal of unauthorized and unneeded roads and trails that negatively impact fish and wildlife habitat, movement, and security,
  • Reclamation of orphaned well pads and abandoned mines,
  • Removal of degraded and abandoned rangeland infrastructure, debris, and waste,
  • Conversion and repair of existing or damaged rangeland infrastructure to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife and safeguard sensitive habitats, and
  • Fully fund and expand the U.S. Youth Conservation
Restoring Watersheds and Coastal Areas Watershed and coastal restoration projects have immediate positive impacts for local communities, wildlife and water quality including long-term benefits for advancing biodiversity and building resilience. For example, numerous national wildlife refuges are located along coasts and waterways and serve a crucial role buffering coastal areas and communities from climate change-induced sea level rise, hurricanes and other storms, protecting shorelines, decreasing erosion, and sequestering carbon. Federal, state, local and Tribal agencies have already identified countless conservation projects that could be immediately implemented with additional funding. Project funding should be prioritized to improve water quality, fish habitat, connectivity and stream flows; serve disadvantaged and frontline Environmental Justice communities; and recover endangered species. Below are examples of watershed protection and restoration projects, many of which are supported by existing programs and could be immediately implemented with additional funding.
  • Decommissioning, repairing and/or relocating roads that negatively impact waterways and water quality, including removal or replacement of culverts to reconnect stream segments and re-establish passage of native aquatic species,
  • Restoration of natural stream channels and hydrologic flows including removing dams and water diversion infrastructure and gully stabilization,
  • Restoration of coral reefs, coastal dunes, and estuaries,
  • Creation of wetlands and other natural alternatives to gray infrastructure, and
  • Humane management of invasive animal species, removal of invasive plant species and restoration of native vegetation for wildlife habitat and stream bank
Safeguarding Key Wildlife Corridors and Reducing Impacts to Wildlife from Infrastructure Connecting fish and wildlife habitats is critical to conserving biodiversity in the face of habitat fragmentation, climate change, and other individual and cumulative stressors, which will increasingly trigger geographical shifts for wildlife populations and plant communities. Many benefits accrue from facilitating the safe and unimpeded movement of fish and wildlife — from saving lives by reducing collisions between vehicles and wildlife, to restoring functional wildlife corridors. The activities listed below would create smart infrastructure with significant economic returns, support state efforts to mitigate the harmful effects of roads, and help create more climate resilient landscapes that protect people and wildlife.
  • Identification and management of wildlife corridors by increasing agency capacity, funding improvements, and directing grants to landowners, states, and Tribes,
  • Construction of wildlife overpasses, underpasses, and bounding fences across busy roads and highways,
  • Removal, re-siting, or modifying infrastructure that is a barrier to fish and wildlife migrations and movements,
  • Burial of transmission lines to reduce bird strikes and other impacts to wildlife, and
  • Developing and employing technology to reduce impacts to wildlife from energy production and other infrastructure.
Addressing Invasive Species and Restoring Native Plants Invasive species undermine critical infrastructure, placing entire communities at risk, overwhelming some of the most treasured and biologically significant landscapes in the United States, and leading to degraded habitat for fish and wildlife.  For example, over two million acres in the National Refuge System are infested with invasive plants and more than 1,700 invasive animal populations are found on refuge lands, yet current funding and capacity only allows treatment of a small fraction of the impacted acres. Addressing the proliferation of invasive species, restoring degraded landscapes, and protecting vital infrastructure is urgently needed, and will provide many new jobs while generating substantial returns on investment. Timely examples include, but are not limited to:
  • Substantially increase federal and state agency staffing in the areas of import/border inspection for agriculture and wildlife,
  • Fund additional invasive species strike teams on national wildlife refuges and other public lands to remove invasive plants and humanely manage invasive animals,
  • Fully fund the Bureau of Land Management Plant Conservation and Restoration Program to implement the National Seed Strategy, including the construction, operation and maintenance of up to five native seed storage facilities across the country,
  • Scale up existing contracts for seed collection and research and support native plants material development on Tribal lands, including culturally significant plants, and
  • Establish a comprehensive national survey of invasive plants and
Promoting Wildlife Coexistence Wildlife and humans are increasingly coming into contact due to expansion of the development footprint into wildlife habitat. The need to increase coexistence efforts where wildlife conflicts are already occurring or are likely to occur is clear and demonstrable. Additionally, efforts must be made to safeguard wildlife from negative impacts associated with human development by implementing non- lethal programs and projects in communities that are in need of adaptation for coexistence with native wildlife. This may include but is not limited to:
  • Development and implementation of wildlife-friendly waste management strategies,
  • Installation of electric fencing and application of other non-lethal wildlife deterrents,
  • Creation and maintenance of livestock composting facilities and carcass removal programs,
  • Expansion of on-the-ground community outreach and education programs,
  • Increasing funding for federal, state and Tribal non-lethal wildlife conflict specialists, and
  • Funding of pilot programs geared to creative non-lethal solutions to conflicts in the urban wildlands interface.
Conclusion Bold investments to stimulate the economy through the restoration of public lands, waters, fish and wildlife habitat not only have the potential to put hundreds of thousands of people to work, but also to ensure more resilient ecosystems and communities throughout the United States that will result in enduring public health benefits and quality of life improvements. Accordingly, funding should be directed at programs that focus on restoration rather than resource extraction, promote coordination and cooperation with local communities, and embody the principles of environmental justice. Recovery funding should fully comply with all laws designed to safeguard the environment, workers and the public. Scientists warn that relaxing environmental standards will only lead to future pandemics. For that reason, we urge you to strengthen our bedrock environmental laws including the passage of legislation to restore critical protections under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. We must also ensure that our programs and policies are designed to protect against future pandemics. Decades of scientific studies have warned that—in addition to live wildlife markets—habitat destruction and biodiversity loss also create significant risk of zoonotic disease spillover into the human population. The projects and programs we have outlined above, which focus on changing our relationship with the natural world by restoring lost and degraded fish and wildlife habitat, promoting coexistence, and increasing biodiversity, are key steps toward protecting against future pandemics. Thank you for your attention to these important issues and proposals. We look forward to working with you on a stimulus package that provides relief and recovery from the crisis triggered by COVID-19, and safeguards the health and resilience of people, public lands and wildlife for generations to come. Sincerely, Advocates for Snake Preservation Advocates for the Environment Alabama Rivers Alliance Alaska Clean Water Advocacy Alaskans for Wildlife All-Creatures.org American Indian Mothers Inc. (AIMI) Animal Legal Defense Fund Animal Welfare Institute Animals & Society Institute Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc. Animas Valley Institute Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) Audubon Naturalist Society Audubon Society of Central Arkansas Audubon Society of Central Maryland Bark Battle Creek Alliance & Defiance Canyon Raptor Rescue Bayou City Waterkeeper Berkeley Partners for Parks Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Bird City Wisconsin Bird Conservation Network Bonobo Conservation Initiative Born Free USA Boulder Rights of Nature Brighter Green Buffalo Field Campaign Cahaba River Society Cahaba Riverkeeper Californians for Western Wilderness Carnivore Conservation Act Cascades Raptor Center Cascadia Wildlands Center for Biological Diversity Center for Food Safety Champaign County (IL) Forest Preserve District Chesapeake Conservancy Christian Council of Delmarva Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge Ciudadanos Del Karso Clark Fork Coalition Climate Law & Policy Project Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks Conservation Council For Hawaii Cool Planet Cougar Rewilding Foundation Defenders of Wildlife Delaware Valley Ornithological Club Delta Institute Earth Action, Inc. Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light Earth Path Sanctuary Earthjustice Earthworks Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research Eastern Oregon Legacy Lands Endangered Habitats League Endangered small animal Conservation fund Endangered Species Coalition Environmental Action Committee of West Marin Environmental Protection Information Center Florida Wildlife Federation Footloose Montana Franciscan Action Network Friends of Animals Friends of Bell Smith Springs Friends of Blackwater, Inc. Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks Friends of the Bitterroot Friends of the Eel River Fund for Wild Nature Gallatin Wildlife Association Geos Institute Global Justice Ecology Project Grand Canyon Trust Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Great Old Broads for Wilderness Greater Hells Canyon Council Greenpeace USA Hands Across the Sand /land Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate Healthy Gulf Hills For Everyone Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History Hoosier Environmental Council Illinois Environmental Council Illinois Ornithological Society In Defense of Animals Inland Ocean Coalition International Fund for Animal Welfare International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute Jemez Peacemakers Kauai Women’s Caucus Kentucky Natural Lands Trust Kettle Range Conservation Group Klamath Forest Alliance KS Wild League of Conservation Voters Libby Creek Watershed Association Life of the Land Little River Waterkeeper Living Rivers & Colorado Riverkeeper Long Branch Environmental Education Center Los Padres ForestWatch Madrone Audubon Society, Sonoma County Maryland Ornithological Society Maryland United for Peace and Justice Mass Audubon Michigan Audubon Michigan League of Conservation Voters Milwaukee Riverkeeper Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter MountainTrue National Wolfwatcher Coalition Native Plant Conservation Campaign Natural Land Institute Natural Resources Defense Council NC WARN Nevada Wildlife Alliance New Mexico Wild Noel J. Cutright Bird Club Northcoast Environmental Center Northeast Oregon Ecosystems Northern California Council, Fly Fishers International NYC Audubon O.U.R.S Oasis Earth Ocean Conservation Research Oceanic Preservation Society Oregon Wild OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Patagonia Pathways: Wildlife Corridors of NM Paula Lane Action Network, Sonoma County Pelican Island Audubon Society Pennsylvania Habitat Connectivity Pesticide Free Zone Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia Predator Defense Prince Georges Audubon Society, Incorporated Project Coyote Public Citizen Public Lands Project Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Rachel Carson Council Rainforest Biodiversity Group Raptors Are The Solution Residents for a Liveable Moreno Valley Resource Renewal Institute RESTORE: The North Woods Rio Grande Waterkeeper (WildEarth Guardians) Rocky Mountain Wild Rogue Riverkeeper Russian Riverkeeper Sacramento River Watershed Program Salem Audubon Society San Jose Peace and Justice Center San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council SanDiego350 Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society Save Our Sky Blue Waters Save The Colorado SAVE THE FROGS! Sequoia ForestKeeper® Sierra Club Sky Island Alliance Social Compassion in Legislation Soda Mountain Wilderness Council South East Idaho Environmental Network South Florida Wildlands Association Southern Maryland Audubon Society Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Southwest Environmental Center Tennessee Ornithological Society Tennessee Riverkeeper The Carl Safina Center The Lands Council Toxic Free NC Trout Headwaters, Inc. Turtle Island Restoration Network Unexpected Wildlife Refuge Union of Concerned Scientists Utah Native Plant Society Ventana Wilderness Alliance Western Environmental Law Center Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory Western Watersheds Project Western Wildlife Conservancy Western Wildlife Outreach, WA Wild Horse Education Wild Nature Institute Wild Virginia Wild Zone Conservation League WildEarth Guardians Wilderness Watch Wildlands Network WildWest Institute Wisconsin Society of Ornithology Wyoming Wildlife Advocates Xun Biosphere Project Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Yuba River Waterkeeper
1 Economic activity generated by restoration activities is well documented, producing between 13 and 30 jobs for every $1 million invested. Restoration of coastal wetlands can create as many as 29 jobs for every $1 million invested. https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp- content/uploads/issues/2011/09/pdf/public_lands.pdf; see also Nielsen-Pincus, Max and Cassandra Moseley. Economic and Employment Impacts of Forest and Watershed Restoration in Oregon. Ecosystem Workforce Program. Working Paper Number 24, Spring 2010. https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/10776/WP24.pdf?sequence=1 2 The Endangered Species Act a popular law that enjoys the support of 90 percent of American voters. “Poll Finds Overwhelming, Broad-Based Support for the Endangered Species Act Among Voters Nationwide,” Tulchin Research. 2015. https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/PollingMemoNationalESASurvey.pdf 3 See for example https://defenders-cci.org/files/ESA_recovery_costs_2019.pdf;and https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/pdfs/Shortchanged.pdf.  4https://www.fws.gov/ecological-services/about/what-we-do.html 5 https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/habitat-restoration-supports-jobs-stewardship 6 The Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program (LRT) is an example of a very successful program created by Congress to address problems with the USFS’s massive roads and trails system. LRT has created many thousands of good jobs while restoring watersheds and habitat, improving access and recreation, and providing drinking water protection. See e.g. https://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/Legacy_Roads_and_Trails/ 7 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2020/04/29/484158/congress-can-help-energy-states-weather-oil-bust-coronavirus-pandemic/ 8 https://www.nps.gov/subjects/youthprograms/ycc.htm 9 For example: https://www.epa.gov/hwp/what-epa-doing-healthy-watersheds, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/habitat-conservation#how-we-restore, 10 See LRT program above and https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/habitat-conservation/reopening-rivers-migratory-fish 11 https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/habitat-conservation/current-and-past-community-based-restoration-projects 12 https://www.epa.gov/nep and https://www.noaa.gov/topic-tags/coastal-restoration 13 A single acre of wetlands can hold up to 1.5 million gallons of rain or melting snow. Wetlands, once constructed or restored, also require little to no maintenance investment, a savings over conventional water treatment options. See: Function and Value of Wetlands. EPA 843-f-01-002c. Sep. 2001. Available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-02/documents/functionsvaluesofwetlands.pdf, https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=30004TBD.TXT, and https://www.wateronline.com/doc/constructed-wetlands-a-low-cost-alternative-0002 14 See for example: http://escalanteriverwatershedpartnership.org/success-stories/healthy-rivers-and-healthy-communities-story/ and https://www.troutheadwaters.com/services-restoration-mitigation-climate-more/, and https://www.beaverinstitute.org/management/stream-restoration/ 15 Congress should consider incorporating the bi-partisan Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, H.R. 2795 and (S. 1499) and the Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act of 2019, H.R. 5179 (S. 2891) passed by the House Natural Resources Committee in 2020, and the bi-partisan wildlife crossing pilot program (Section 1125) and related provisions expanding wildlife infrastructure funding eligibility found in S.2302 unanimously passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in July 2019. 16 https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/08034/08034.pdf 17 For a list of potential projects, see https://wildlandsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Wildlife-Crossing-List-for-Infrastructure-Funding.pdf 18 https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/invasive_species_impacts_on_infrastructure.pdf, and https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/invasive_species_impacts_on_federal_infrastructure.pdf 19 Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement: Testimony submitted to U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies FY 2021 Appropriations Request for National Wildlife Refuge System 20 https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/isac_green_economy_white_paper.pdf 21 Reaser and Waugh 2007; https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2007-058.pdf 22 https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/programs_natural-resources_native-plant-communities_national-seed-strategy_pca_Framework.pdf 23 http://www.bearsmart.com/managing-communities/waste-management/ 24 For example: hiring additional wildlife rangers, conducting bear identification and bear spray deployment clinics, printing and distribution of education materials, conducting livestock husbandry workshops, purchase of equipment for removal of attractants, etc. See also: http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=95623 25 Settele, Josef, Sandra Díaz Eduardo Brondizio, and Dr. Peter Daszak. COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard Nature to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics. April 27, 2020. Available at https://ipbes.net/covid19stimulus. 26 See, e.g.: Ostfeld RS, Biodiversity loss and the rise of zoonotic pathogens. Ja. 2009. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19220353; Wilkinson, David A., Jonathan C. Marshall, Nigel P. French, and David T. S. Hayman. Habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss and the risk of novel infectious disease emergence. Dec. 2018. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6303791/.