Policy Pulse: President Proposes Deep Cuts in Conservation and Environmental Protection

Outdoor America 2018, Issue 2
Bald Eagle_Big Muddy NWR_credit USFWS

In February, the Trump Administration submitted to Congress its detailed budget request for Fiscal Year 2019. Unfortunately, it’s very similar to last year’s budget request, proposing deep and counterproductive cuts in conservation, environmental protection, and public land management. The administration’s proposal jeopardizes public health and the $887 billion annual outdoor recreation economy. 

The Department of the Interior, which includes national parks and national wildlife refuges, would see its budget cut by $2 billion compared with current levels (about a 16-percent reduction). The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which conserves public land and water on behalf of all Americans and funds local outdoor recreation projects, would be slashed by more than 90 percent. 

The Department of Agriculture’s budget would be reduced by $3.5 billion (about 15 percent) from current funding levels. Key conservation investments tied with agriculture are targeted for deep cuts. For example, funding for the conservation operations branch of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – which helps landowners implement conservation practices that protect our soil, water, and wildlife – would be cut by $200 million. Other reductions would prevent new farmers from enrolling in critical conservation programs and eliminate partnerships that tackle conservation challenges on a regional level. 

The Environmental Protection Agency again takes the biggest hit in the president’s budget proposal. The agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment would see its funding gutted by about 34 percent, roughly $2.1 billion. The budget would slash funding to restore the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay by 90 percent. Recent investments in large-scale restoration have been instrumental in restoring wetlands, improving water quality, and fighting invasive species. Federal funding to help states reduce non-point-source water pollution – the most serious threat to water quality today – would be completely eliminated. 

The budget to restore habitat and fish and wildlife populations along the Missouri River would be cut in half – from $32 million to almost $15 million. One of the few positive notes is the administration’s proposal would maintain funding levels (about $33 million) for restoration efforts along the Upper Mississippi River in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

This proposed budget request does not reflect the conservation values of the Izaak Walton League, and we will continue to work with our members and partners for a budget that invests in conservation, clean air, and clean water. Those investments are critical for public health, outdoor recreation, and America’s economy.

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director