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American Samoa’s wildlife would benefit from federal Conservation Act

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata speaking
Source: Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata’s D.C. staff

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata who is an original cosponsor of America's Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act (AWHCA) took part in a Capitol press conference on Thursday in the House Radio and TV Correspondents Gallery as part of the rollout of America's Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act (AWHCA).

“I represent beautiful islands in the South Pacific, and much of our wildlife is unique in terms of U.S. native wildlife,” said Congresswoman Amata in the press event. “Our land is covered with tropical rainforest, teeming with life, and rugged mountainous coastlines and coral reefs. We have abundant small wildlife, lovely birds, large coconut crabs, and in our waters, everything from whales to microscopic life. We value all of them.”

The bill is sponsored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) with Congresswoman Amata, who serves on the Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries Subcommittee, and several other Members as original cosponsors, including Chairman Dan Newhouse of the bipartisan Congressional Western Caucus, on which Amata also serves as a Vice Chairman.

“One animal has become somewhat symbolic of American Samoa in art and culture. Our ‘flying fox’ – a large fruit bat, was chosen for our National Park of American Samoa quarter by the U.S. Mint. It is a vital part of our rainforest ecology. We have sea bird habitat, such as our steep uninhabited Pola Island at Vai’ava Straight Natural Landmark. We have many land snails, sisi vao, ranging from common to rare, some found only in the Samoan islands, that leave behind shells – like these on this handmade Samoan ula,” she continued, showing the audience her ula of snail and seashells.

She concluded, “Thank you to Chairman Westerman for this good bill. I’m delighted to support it. Our people and our National Park would make any of you very welcome if you ever are in the South Pacific to see our wonderful wildlife. Thank you. Soifua ma ia manuia.”

The AWHCA will invest $320 million annually in grant funding to states and territories for wildlife habitat conservation, providing additional resources for governments to enact their congressionally mandated state wildlife action plans. Specifically, the bill would fund habitat restoration and management projects, and promote collaboration with private partners to conserve habitat for at-risk and listed species.

The AWHCA would also empower state and territory governments by giving them the opportunity to develop recovery strategies for species that are listed as threatened or are candidates to be listed. These recovery strategies give them an active role in developing regulations for threatened and candidate species.

Chairman Westerman said, “The America's Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act will empower states and local communities to use proven practices to restore and maintain habitat, which will benefit species in their state’s wildlife action plans. Good habitat management is integral to wildlife management and without it, species have little chance of maintaining sustainable populations and surviving. By strengthening relationships between states, tribes, private landowners and the federal government, we can empower them to implement proactive habitat conservation that will make a difference where it counts: on the ground across our abundant outdoors.”