WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), a member of House Democratic leadership and the Judiciary Committee, announced that Donald Trump has signed into law the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act (KARO), H.R. 3979. This law will help protect our wildlife by reauthorizing 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. The legislation’s co-sponsors in the House and Senate include Republican Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01); Democratic Senator Tom Carper [DE] and Republican Senator John Barrasso (WY).
Rep. Jeffries said: “We must remain vigilant in protecting the breathtaking wildlife and beautiful environment God has given America. The Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act is a commonsense measure that represents a strong step in that direction. Each year, 47 million Americans visit wildlife refuges, generating almost $2 billion in local economic activity. This bill will keep our refuges operational by undergirding the volunteers that dedicate thousands of hours to make sure we can all experience the vast natural beauty our great nation has to offer.”
Rep. Wittman said: “This is a big win for our refuge volunteers. 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. Reauthorizing these programs ensures that our nation’s refuges will continue to be enjoyed by tourists, sportsmen and women, and conservationists for years to come. I am thrilled that President Trump signed this legislation into law.”
America’s 561 National Wildlife Refuges are located in all 50 states, including 10 in the state of New York. They make up 850 million acres of pristine public lands and waters 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, retired people willing to share their wealth of knowledge, concerned citizens of all ages who want to learn more about conservation and passionate people who enjoy the outdoors and want to spread the word about America’s greatest natural treasures. 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.
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; Trout Unlimited and The National Wild Turkey Federation.
Although Democrats have been in the minority during the entire time Rep. Jeffries has been in Congress, he continues to work with his Republican colleagues to get things done on behalf of the American people. Last month, his Judicial Redaction Authority bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Darryl Issa, designed to promote the safety and well-being of federal judges was signed into law by President Trump as a fully incorporated provision of the Omnibus Spending bill. Currently, Rep. Jeffries is partnering with Congressman Doug Collins, a conservative Republican from rural Georgia, on bipartisan music licensing and criminal justice reform legislation that is working its way through the House of Representatives.
Rep. Jeffries represents Gateway National Park in Brooklyn and Queens, the largest urban national park in the country. In that regard, he is proud to have championed legislation backed by environmental advocates, conservationists and the recreational fishing community.
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