Making Wildlife a Policy Priority
The hard work of wildlife conservation can happen in many settings. Sometimes it’s at the roadside, carefully collecting an injured animal. Or it might be in a veterinary hospital, cleaning wounds, X-raying wings or performing delicate surgeries.
But some of the hardest work has happened behind the scenes, in offices and conference rooms. Like a lot of important issues, wildlife conservation needs sound public policy to be successful. Historic legislation like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act have helped to safeguard the natural resources that belong to all of us, and to keep some of our most treasured species from extinction.
And the work doesn’t end there. Once those bills are signed into law, consistent advocacy and public pressure are necessary to ensure they are enforced. Sometimes, changing circumstances and new threats require fresh legislation at the federal, state or local level.
At the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implements federal laws like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. It monitors the status of threatened species, enforces federal wildlife laws, and works with foreign governments to develop international conservation efforts.
On the state level, Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources works to conserve the Commonwealth’s wildlife and their habitats. Its law enforcement division investigates violations of Virginia’s wildlife and fish laws, and works with the public to develop plans to address potential threats to wildlife and habitat. As a public agency, they rely on input from citizens to guide their work and hold public meetings to discuss it.
At the local level, you may find that your city or county is doing its own work to protect wildlife and their habitats. A zoning decision, for example, might help to preserve a wooded area that is home to hundreds of species. Your local parks and recreation department is likely doing its own part to keep some habitats safe, and your library may even actively promote wildlife awareness through its programs.\
What You Can Do!
Know who your representatives are, at all levels, so you know who to contact when it’s time to speak up. Your city, town or county website will tell you who represents you in local decisions. This handy tool will tell you who’s making decisions for you in Virginia's General Assembly, and there are similar tools to identify your reps in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Support organizations that work to protect wildlife and natural resources. To make a real difference, it helps to be part of a group that’s working together.
Check out the The Wildlife Center of Virginia to learn more about the wild animals around you, and how you can help keep them safe.