Conservation group decries cuts in house budget bill

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other sportsman-conservationists strongly criticized a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations bill that would dramatically reduce natural resource programs funding and curtail federal agencies’ abilities to manage public and outdoor resources, TRCP reported in a news release.

Funding levels and policy riders proposed by the House in its fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies would reduce operating budgets for agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency, according to the release.

“This misguided action by the House not only would roll back investments in conservation spending, it also undermines the foundation of our nation’s conservation policy,” TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh said in the release. “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. Additionally, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be slashed by 80 percent – to levels not seen since 1968, according to the release.

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.

The release states that budget reductions in the House bill would 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

“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,” said Jim Martin, TRCP policy council chair and conservation director at the Berkley Conservation Institute, in the release. “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.”

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 week voted to advance the $28 billion spending bill, which now will be considered by the full House of Representatives.