Conservation in the Budget Bullseye

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt

    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director

    Fall signals the start of school and opening day of hunting seasons across the country. It also means crunch time for the federal budget in Washington. And investments that conserve farmland and fish and wildlife habitat and directly benefit hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation are likely to get squeezed.

    Bob Marshall highlights what’s at risk in his column in the September 2011 issue of Field & Stream. In “What We Could Lose,” Marshall describes how Congress made deep cuts this spring in essential conservation programs – programs ranging from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and North American Wetlands Conservation Act to farm conservation and national wildlife refuges. These cuts total hundreds of millions of dollars and, as Marshall points out, affect programs that “directly benefit land, water, and wildlife.”

    What Marshall describes was round one. This summer, Congress – or, more accurately, the U.S. House of Representatives – launched round two. The House considered budget bills for agriculture, fish and wildlife, and public lands that would make even deeper cuts in many of these same programs. Take the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for example. The House bill cut another $238 million from the LWCF budget, effectively eliminating funding for any new land acquisition or to support outdoor recreation in communities across the country. Investments to conserve wetlands and grasslands on farms across the country were slashed again, and funding was eliminated for Open Fields, which provides modest grants to states to support and expand access to private land for hunting and other outdoor recreation.

    Marshall sounded the alarm based on round one. Round two only reinforces the threats that conservation, public land management, and outdoor recreation face from the budget cutting ax. No one argues that conservation shouldn’t make a contribution to deficit reduction. On the flip side, these programs account for a tiny fraction of the total federal budget. Even if all these programs were eliminated, it would not make a major dent in the national debt.  We need to take a smarter approach to the budget debate – an approach that recognizes that small investments in conservation generate major dividends for the every American, our economy, and our environment.

    I’ve heard Marshall speak passionately about how important it is for hunters and anglers to let their representatives in Washington know that investments in public lands, habitat conservation, and recreation are important to us and the nation’s economy. Round two will play out this fall, and there’s still time to heed Bob Marshall’s advice. 

    The League is actively engaged on these issues. To stay informed and make your voice heard, please sign up for our Action Alerts and electronic newsletter.

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