What landowners need to know about the new ‘America’s Conservation Enhancement’ (ACE) Act

Following a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives today, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE) now heads to the President’s desk for final approval. It feels like there are fewer and fewer issues that unite Congress these days, and passage of the ACE Act proves that there is still room to find common ground when it comes to building solutions for working lands stewardship and conserving natural resources.  

The ACE Act advances several provisions that recognize and address the challenges of ranching with wildlife. Certain elements of this legislation will support western landowners and federal land grazing permittees in providing crucial habitat and ecosystem services by providing economic relief and policy options for livestock producers.

Human-Predator Conflict

The act establishes a sixth category of Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize for technological innovation to reduce human-predator conflict using non-lethal means, including the application and monitoring of tagging technologies. This expands on the five categories of Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize established under the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, March 12, 2019, which included a prize category for nonlethal management of human-wildlife conflicts.

Livestock Loss Compensation

In addition to innovation incentives, the act creates a grant program to assist livestock producers in carrying out proactive and nonlethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss and compensate producers for livestock losses due to depredation by federally protected wildlife species. 

Depredation Permits

The act also authorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue depredation permits to livestock producers that authorize takings of black vulture or common ravens during calving or lambing season.

NFWF Reauthorization

The act reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Act through 2025. NFWF provides important financial support for private lands wildlife conservation initiatives.

The ACE Act should provide more flexibility and economic relief for those ranchers facing predator problems.

These new provisions will provide a little more flexibility and some economic relief for landowners who operate with predators on their land. In particular the two Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prizes will support and reward $200,000 worth of conflict reduction, and the livestock loss compensation grant program will answer a clear call to distribute the financial costs of providing habitat on private lands for a public resource, wildlife. 

We encourage our legislators to think holistically about the wildlife working lands support. As federal policy works to conserve migrations, with those migrations come risks to agricultural producers: forage loss, additional labor to maintain fencing and manage hunters, and disease. For example, brucellosis, now carried by wild elk and bison after a USDA eradication program effectively removed it from the livestock industry, poses severe financial risks to livestock producers that steward the working lands surrounding our nation’s greatest wildlife resource, Yellowstone National Park.

Zach Bodhane is policy director for the Western Landowners Alliance, based in Washington, D.C.