Friday, June 29, 2012
Sportsmen Decry Conservation Cuts in House Budget Bill
WASHINGTON - The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other sportsman-conservationists strongly criticized a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations bill that would dramatically reduce critical natural resource programs and sharply curtail federal agencies' abilities to responsibly manage public resources and outdoor opportunities.
Funding levels and policy riders proposed by the House in its fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies would severely reduce operating budgets for agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency. Numerous programs critically important to the sportsmen's community face deep cuts and would be affected by several damaging policy riders in the bill.
"This misguided action by the House not only would roll back investments in conservation spending," said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh, "it also undermines the foundation of our nation's conservation policy. The bill wages a full-frontal assault on basic natural resources management measures that will cost us money and jobs, both in the near and long term."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget would be cut by more than one fifth under the proposal, and the U.S. Geological Survey budget would be reduced by nearly 10 percent. Egregiously, the all-important Land and Water Conservation Fund would be slashed by 80 percent - to levels not seen since 1968. State and tribal grants, which support cooperative projects with states and private landowners to keep species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act, would be cut by 50 percent.
Budget reductions in the House bill include the following cuts (from fiscal year 2012 budget):
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget cut by $317 million
• U.S. Geological Survey budget cut by $101 million
• BLM operations and maintenance cut by $39.6 million
• North American Wetlands Conservation Act cut by $13 million
• EPA budget cut by 17 percent
• Land and Water Conservation Fund reduced by 80 percent
• State and tribal wildlife grants cut by $30 million
• Chesapeake Bay restoration funding cut by $7 million
The bill also includes several damaging policy riders, including a prohibition against using funds to provide guidance clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over isolated wetlands and small streams.
The committee's action comes a week after the Outdoor Industry Association released a major economic report documenting the economic contribution of hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation that depend upon a clean environmental and healthy public lands.
The House Appropriations Committee this morning voted to advance the $28 billion spending bill, which now will be considered by the full House of Representatives.
Members of the TRCP Policy Council weigh in on today's House action:
Jim Martin, policy council chair, and conservation director, Berkley Conservation Institute:
"Given the tough economic climate right now, sportsmen acknowledge that difficult decisions must be made regarding natural resources funding, and we remain prepared to shoulder our fair share of the burden. But this slash-and-burn approach, which drastically diminishes funding to key agencies and programs to levels far below what is either appropriate or sustainable, is not a reasonable way to reduce our budget deficit. American sportsmen condemn this misguided approach in the strongest terms possible."
Bob Bendick, director of U.S. government relations, The Nature Conservancy:
"The Nature Conservancy understands the constraints of this country's current budget situation; however, we see very significant problems in the House Interior Appropriation bill's proposed budget cuts to programs that directly benefit on-the-ground conservation. We believe this is a false economy. In fact, these programs leverage state, local, private and non-profit matches to federal expenditures and encourage the cooperative, locally driven conservation that is most effective."
Dale Hall, CEO, Ducks Unlimited:
"While we understand the spending constraints the House Appropriations Committee is operating under, we are disappointed with the spending level recommended for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund in the subcommittee's bill. NAWCA leverages a modest investment of federal dollars with significant non-federal dollars from partner organizations like Ducks Unlimited to deliver exemplary on-the-ground wetlands conservation across the nation. This appropriations plan is not good for conservation or the economy, which is strongly benefited by outdoor recreationists."
Evan Hirsche, president, National Wildlife Refuge Association:
"The National Wildlife Refuge System is a cornerstone of wildlife conservation but also an economic driver, returning $4 to communities for every dollar appropriated. A $48 million cut to refuges will mean a loss of jobs, recreational opportunities and law enforcement at hundreds of refuges."
Gordon Robertson, vice president, American Sportfishing Association:
"In this time of necessary spending cuts it is important to make wise decisions and not disproportionally cut programs that create revenue and add to the nation's overall economy. Recreational fishing has a $125 billion economic impact to the country each year and supports more than a million jobs. Much of this economic engine is in communities that have little to no other economic force. The sport-fishing industry supports balanced fiscal management that keeps recreational revenue programs producing both dollars and jobs."
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.