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Conservationists call on Congress to protect 300 vulnerable Ky. species

A person gently holds a monarch butterfly in two hands.
Ryan Van Velzer
At least a third of U.S. species face an increased risk of extinction, according to a 2018 study from the National Wildlife Federation.

The planet is facing a biodiversity crisis, and Kentucky is no exception. The swamp rabbit, the eastern mud turtle, the willow flycatcher and the beloved monarch butterfly are among more than 300 vulnerable species facing an elevated risk of extinction in Kentucky.

The world has seen a nearly 70% drop in animal populations since the 1970s, according to the World Wildlife Foundation’s Living Planet Index.

At least a third of U.S. species face an increased risk of extinction, according to a 2018 study from the National Wildlife Federation.

Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have identified 301 species that they’d like help protecting as part of a state wildlife action plan to sustain the state’s biodiversity. There’s currently no reliable funding to protect non-game species, according to the plan.

That could change if the U.S. Congress decides to include funding for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in an upcoming federal spending package.

“Right now the best bet for passing this legislation and getting this funding is for it to get into this omnibus bill,” Kentucky Waterway Alliance Director Ward Wilson said.

Congress is poised to pass an “omnibus” spending package this week with Democrats and Republicans each gunning to include funding for their own priorities through the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2023.

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would dedicate nearly $1.4 billion annually to state-led conservation efforts. Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources would receive $14.7 million annually to fund its wildlife action plan under the legislation.

Kentucky Waterway Alliance and other conservation groups including the National Wildlife Federation are calling on Congress to include funding for the act in the spending bill to protect the state’s vulnerable wildlife.

“It’s hard to develop a long-term plan and develop over years when you don’t know how much money there will be,” Wilson said. “It’d be an increase of $13 or $14 million per year and it would be dedicated every year.”

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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