Following yesterday’s subcommittee approval of the House of Representatives Fiscal Year 2013 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy, released the following statement:
“The Nature Conservancy understands the constraints of this country’s current budget situation, and we appreciate the effort made by the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to negotiate a workable budget for the current fiscal year. However, the Conservancy sees very significant problems in the proposed budget cuts and policy changes included in the House FY2013 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.
“Programs that have proven time and again to be critical for the management of our country’s natural resources have been targeted for significant reductions under this appropriations bill, including programs for the protection of important federal trust species and their habitats, for sustaining the livelihoods of rural communities through working timberlands, ranchlands and agricultural production, and for ensuring recreational access to public lands for millions of Americans. With the exception of fire suppression and prevention programs, which are adequately funded, the decreases for conservation raise concerns that natural resource and environmental programs are continuing to be singled out for deep and disproportionate cuts despite the fact that all of these programs together only amount to around one percent of the federal budget. In addition, spending on these programs has grown hardly at all over the last 30 years.
“While the Conservancy recognizes the ongoing need to identify improved efficiencies and necessary cuts within the federal budget, and we believe the conservation budget should do its share, conservation programs are once again disproportionately targeted in the House FY2013 Budget. This is further exacerbated by the significant reduction in the House’s annual allocation for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill in general in comparison to other House appropriations bills.
“Programs that provide funding to state and local governments, private landowners and non-profit organizations to help communities protect local lands, waters and wildlife are among the hardest hit. 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.
“In addition to funding cuts, policy language in the House Interior Appropriations Bill curtails implementation of longstanding environmental laws affecting the ability of agencies to protect clean water and clean air and habitat for plant and animal species. Riders on appropriations bills are not, in the Conservancy’s view, the right way to address fundamental environmental policy issues enacted to protect the health of the American people and America’s lands, waters and wildlife.
“Investment in the long term stewardship of the remarkable natural resources of our country is essential to the strength of our economy, the health and safety of our citizens, and the character of the American way of life. It is our hope that as the 2013 federal budget continues to move through Congress, as was the case for the 2012, the budget proposals will be improved through negotiations among the House, the Senate and the Administration.”
Further Information: Interior and Environment Appropriations
The House Subcommittee mark includes a cut of $1.2 billion below the enacted level and $1.7 billion below the FY2012 President’s request for the Department of Interior and its agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Additional cuts are included for other agencies in this appropriations bill such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The subcommittee mark would reduce funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to one of the lowest levels in the 45 year history of the program, $66 million—an 80 percent reduction from the FY12 enacted level. At this level of funding, none of the land protection projects proposed by the President will be funded, including the continuation of ongoing projects in Montana’s Crown of the Continent, important Longleaf Pine working forest areas in the Southeast, working ranch conservation easements in the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area of Kansas and the Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area, or New England’s Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife & Fish Refuge.
In addition, funding for the Forest Legacy Program providing forest conservation matching grants to states is proposed to be slashed to $3 million, leaving most state-supported projects to be unfunded, including conservation of a public recreation area and campground for underprivileged children in Indiana, Carter Mountain in Tennessee and the Pascagoula River recreation and protection project in Mississippi. The demand from the states for Legacy grants is $168 million, yet the program only received $53.3 million in FY12.
The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund, a key grant program that enables states to implement habitat conservation programs to benefit endangered species will once again receive little to no funding for land acquisition.
The bill will also sharply reduce funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant program to $30 million. This will severely limit the ability of states and their partners to implement projects to protect wildlife and their habitat. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the premier program to conserve migratory waterfowl, faces a 50 percent reduction from the President’s Budget. Funding for its smaller companion program, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, would also be similarly reduced.
The cuts to Forest Legacy, State & Tribal Wildlife Grants, NAWCA and similar programs are really cuts to proven, cost-share programs that use small amounts of federal funding to leverage larger contributions by states and many citizens groups. This jointly and cooperatively supports vitally needed conservation and habitat enhancement projects on the ground that are economic drivers, particularly in rural areas, for a wide array of recreation, tourism, hunting and fishing industries.
The Conservancy also has concerns about several riders included in the House FY13 Interior Appropriations Bill, including language to prohibit EPA from implementing regulations to protect wetlands resources and all waters of the United States from pollution and implement Title V of the Clean Air Act, a prohibition on the use of funding to implement the National Ocean Policy, and prevents the Department of Interior from protecting threatened and endangered species.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have helped protect more than 119 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org/.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy