Provided by Congressman Rob Wittman’s Office
In October, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), in a bipartisan effort to protect American wildlife, joined eight colleagues from both the House and Senate to introduce the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act. Yesterday, H.R. 3979 passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, under suspension of the rules, by a vote of 371-14. 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.
“National Wildlife Refuges host nearly 50 million visitors each year supporting local economies, however that would be impossible without the valuable contribution of volunteers and community groups,” Wittman said. “Reauthorizing these programs will ensure that our nation’s refuges will continue to be enjoyed by tourists, sportsmen and women, and conservationists for years to come. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to move quickly on this legislation so that we may reauthorize these important programs.”
America’s 561 National Wildlife Refuges are located in all 50 states and the five territories. They make up 850 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 2016, 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.
Other sponsors include Senator Tom Carper (D-DE); Senator John Barrasso (R-WY); Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08); Rep. Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2); Rep. Garrett Graves (LA-6); Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3); Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (I-NMI); and Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05).
The bill is supported by The American Bird Conservancy; American Fisheries Society; American Hiking Society; American Sportfishing Association; Boy Scouts of America; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Defenders of Wildlife; Ducks Unlimited; Izaak Walton League of America; Marine Conservation Institute; National Audubon Society; National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Refuge Association; The Corps Network; The Nature Conservancy; The Wilderness Society; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; and Trout Unlimited.
Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he is the Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.