Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), co-chairs of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, announced the introduction of the bipartisan Refuge System Protection Act. This legislation grants authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to collect civil damages to repair and restored damaged wildlife refuges.
“Wildlife refuges represent some of the very best of our nation’s public lands. Sadly, when they are damaged, the USFWS must use taxpayer money to conduct needed repairs instead of holding the responsible parties financially responsible. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Refuge System Protection Act that would allow USFWS to seek civil damages from people who damage refuges. Those fines will be used to restore our public lands,” said Thompson. “This process is more efficient, saves the taxpayer money, and is already used by agencies like the National Park Service. I’ll work to ensure we pass this important bill to preserve our wildlife refuges.”
“The First District of Virginia is home to unique and special ecosystems. As a former state health official who conducted field research in the Chesapeake Bay, I am aware of the ecological challenges facing Virginia waters, wetlands, and refuges and I know the importance of taking care of our environment for future generations. Providing for the protection and security of these resources is absolutely vital.” said Wittman. “This legislation will help ensure that our nation’s refuges are protected for years to come.”
Wildlife refuges sustain thousands of dollars in damage each year and the USFWS has no way under current law to recover the costs needed to conduct repair. In fact, between 2014 and 2016, at least 1,787 acts of vandalisms and 127 acts of arson were committed to refuges, which cost more than $395,000. This bipartisan bill gives the USFWS authority to collect civil damages from those responsible and use those funds to repair damages. Wildlife refuges nationwide host more than 48 million visitors each year and generate $2.4 billion for local economies. This legislation puts wildlife refuges on par with other public lands that already have such protection. You can click here to read text of the bill.