No Money for Key Conservation Programs?

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt

    The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – the program that helps make public lands available for us to hunt, hike, and enjoy – and other key conservation programs would receive zero dollars in the next fiscal year if certain House appropriators get their way.

    By Mike Leahy, IWLA Conservation Director

    In July, the House subcommittee that funds the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voted to eliminate all funding for five longstanding conservation programs. In addition to the LWCF, the other programs that would be effectively ended if this bill is not changed are the

    • North American Wetland Conservation Fund, which supports public-private partnerships that maintain wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife, water quality, and flood and erosion control
    • State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the primary program funding non-game wildlife management by states
    • Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports public-private partnerships to manage migratory birds and their habitat
    • Forest Legacy Program, which helps states conserve environmentally important private working forests so that they can continue to provide timber, habitat, recreation, and soil and water benefits

    These cuts come on top of disproportionate cuts already imposed on underfunded conservation programs. The Izaak Walton League and other groups representing millions of outdoor recreationists sent a letter to congressional appropriators challenging this unprecedented step that would undermine conservation efforts in America and the outdoor recreation economy.

    The House Interior appropriations subcommittee took another swipe at outdoorsmen and women by including language in the bill prohibiting EPA from issuing much needed guidance for staff on implementing the Clean Water Act. The subcommittee falsely characterizes this guidance – which would begin restoring protections to streams and wetlands – as an attempt to change the definition of “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act. This comes as leading outdoor recreation groups, including the League, sent a letter to the White House requesting long-overdue guidance be issued and promptly implemented. Other provisions in the bill would block protections for stream buffers and for streams threatened by fill material from mines..

    The League understands the importance of fiscal responsibility. However, the federal deficit is not going to be fixed by eliminating important conservation programs that total less than 1 percent of all discretionary spending – a percentage that has been declining for decades. We will continue to urge Congress to adequately fund natural resource conservation programs and leave out unrelated policies that undermine protections for America’s water resources.

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