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.


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.


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.


Advocates for Snake Preservation
Advocates for the Environment
Alabama Rivers Alliance
Alaska Clean Water
Advocacy Alaskans for Wildlife
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
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
National Wolfwatcher Coalition
Native Plant Conservation Campaign
Natural Land Institute
Natural Resources Defense Council
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
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
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Save The Colorado
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. 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.

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.

3 See for example;and  4


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.



9 For example:,,

10 See LRT program above and


12 and

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,, and 14 See for example: and, and

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.


17 For a list of potential projects, see 18, and

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


21 Reaser and Waugh 2007;



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:

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

26 See, e.g.: Ostfeld RS, Biodiversity loss and the rise of zoonotic pathogens. Ja. 2009. Available at; 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