US Representative French Hill voted on Tuesday to direct new funding toward wildlife conservation while the rest of the US House of Representatives from Arkansas objected to the measure.
The legislation, approved by the House of Representatives in a 231-190 vote Tuesday, would shift about $1.4 billion in additional funding nationwide year-over-year toward wildlife and habitat conservation programs, wildlife conservation education and efforts to help restore threatened species Extinction, among other uses.
The bill, called the Restoration of America’s Wildlife Act, still had to pass the Senate.
Hill, a co-sponsor of the bill and one of 16 House Republicans who voted in favor of the measure, said the legislation is a state-led way to promote and preserve habitats.
“States are better at managing and restoring habitats as opposed to just being a federal priority. And I think that will mean that you will have more success on some of these target species, and therefore in the long run you will save billions of dollars. [at] at the federal level,” said Little Rock, a Republican.
US Representative Bruce Westerman voted against the bill and cited financial concerns in a speech on Tuesday, saying he reluctantly opposes it.
Westerman had also raised similar concerns before the House Rules Committee the day before.
“In a time of rampant inflation, now is not the time to push inflation higher with new spending, just to burden current and future generations with the consequences,” Westerman said Monday.
He said that spending in the bill would only increase the debt.
Westerman said the goal of the legislation is commendable: to enable states to manage fish and wildlife and improve their habitats to prevent future listings of endangered species.
“[It is] And it’s an effort that I think most people support, he said, “after all, states and tribes in general are more attuned to what happens in their backyards than the federal government,” he said.
Westerman said he and other Republicans tried to solve the fiscal problems with adjustments.
The Democrats, although they disagreed with the amendments at the time, said they would work with Republicans to find reparations before considering the measure on the ground, he said.
“But the larger forces on the other side of the corridor decided that it would be best to expedite this law,” he said.
Hill said Tuesday morning that Westerman raised legitimate issues.
“I’ve really thought about it and weighed these things up and supported the bill as structural. All bills would be better off if they had a term clause,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, Austin Booth, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, called the measure “a one-in-a-generation opportunity to increase funding for all species, gamers and non-games alike.”
“It is our duty to our children to leave our wild places better than we find them, so that one day they can tell us how important it is to preserve their lives too,” he said in the statement.
Zachary Hartmann, chief policy officer for Ducks Unlimited, also expressed support for the measure in a statement, calling it “a significant achievement for waterfowl and other wildlife, their habitats, athletes and women across the country.”
But financial concerns partly prompted U.S. Representative Rick Crawford of Jonesboro to vote against the legislation.
“I thought she might have spent a little more money than she needed to,” he said outside the House floor after the vote.
“During these times of hyperinflation, we must be serious about legislation that does not take into account the fiscal implications of increased spending without reasonable compensation,” Crawford said in a written statement on Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Steve Womack of Rogers also voted against the measure.
“The same Democrats who failed to budget are now trying to pass legislation that has a costly budgetary impact on mandatory spending – the primary driver of our nation’s ballooning debt,” Womack said in a statement released after the vote. “Conservation is a priority we all share, but this [wildlife] Invoice Invoice Mark. It includes poison pills and the withdrawal of money to Washington, D.C. rather than to the states that best manage wildlife resources.”