A Better Way to Meet New Hampshire’s Needs: Invest in Nature

New Hampshire State Director Mark Zankel responds to the President’s recent budget proposal

By Mark Zankel on March 20, 2017

We all depend on healthy lands and waters in New Hampshire for jobs, food, security and prosperity. In turn, these irreplaceable natural resources depend on all of us, including our elected officials.

Unfortunately, the President’s budget proposal doesn’t meet that end of the bargain.

It slashes critical conservation and environment programs through dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of the Interior, and more. Here in New Hampshire, the impacts of these cuts would be felt in communities across the state.

Conserving our natural resources is not a partisan issue, and it is not optional. In fact, the drive by some to reduce environmental protections has little support among Granite Staters. A recent survey by the University of New Hampshire found that only 20 percent of respondents favored reducing environmental protections, while 75 percent preferred to either strengthen environmental protections or keep things the way they are. New Hampshire residents understand that nature is essential to our well-being, and it offers solutions to some of the greatest economic and security challenges we face.

The President’s proposed budget would eliminate or severely reduce funding for programs that offer technical, financial, and other assistance to our state agencies, municipalities, and organizations. Take New Hampshire’s Coastal Zone Management Program, which helps municipalities and to protect clean water, restore coastal habitats, and reduce the risk of damage from coastal hazards. Another example is the University of New Hampshire’s Sea Grant, which works with New Hampshire fishermen to help maintain profitable businesses while sustaining the marine resources on which they depend. Additionally, the budget would cut funding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service distributes to New Hampshire communities where National Wildlife Refuges are located – places like Jefferson, and Columbia, and Newington.

The budget would also reduce investment in clean energy, science, and efforts to reduce the risk of damage from flooding and coastal hazards.

Cutting programs that conserve our natural resources is not the answer America needs. There is a better way. Congress should instead prioritize investments in nature, and New Hampshire’s citizens can help by asking that our representatives in Washington do just that.

Congress and the administration will have significant opportunities to invest in nature to provide cost-effective solutions to some of our biggest national challenges in the months ahead.
Here are four ideas to get them started.

First, Congress should maintain strong funding for conservation and science in the federal budget. Natural resource and environmental programs make up only about 1 percent of the federal budget, and funding for them has not kept pace with our growing economy and population. Cutting these programs will contribute little to overall budget savings, but cost much to the Americans who benefit from them.

For example, Congress should permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This program uses non-tax dollars from royalty payments on offshore energy production to fund conservation work in every state—from local ballparks and boat ramps to national parks and historic places. New Hampshire has received more than $150 million in LWCF funding over the past 50 years, protecting some of New Hampshire’s most special places—the White Mountain National Forest, Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, Saint Gaudens National Historic Site and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail—and ensuring recreational access for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. The U.S. Census reports that 839,000 people hunt, fish or watch wildlife in New Hampshire each year, spending over $560 million on wildlife-related recreation. We all understand that outdoor recreation is a major driver for New Hampshire’s economy. The budget should build on these investments, not undermine them.

Second, leaders of both parties have identified infrastructure as a “must” for Congressional action. Beyond the obvious need to repair and upgrade crumbling roads, bridges and dams, we can invest in proven “natural infrastructure” solutions like restoring reefs and wetlands to shield coastal communities from storms, while also providing clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, and jobs. In New Hampshire, federal, state, and local support has enabled The Nature Conservancy to work with partners such as the University of New Hampshire and community volunteers, to restore oyster reefs in Great Bay as a cost-effective, natural infrastructure approach to improve water quality, ensure future opportunities for oyster harvest, and provide critical fish habitat.

Third, the Farm Bill supports voluntary efforts by farmers, ranchers, and foresters to improve the health of their soils and waters, not only making their lands more productive and profitable, but also improving water and air quality for neighboring communities by restoring natural habitat and reducing nutrient runoff. Reauthorizing and enhancing conservation programs within the Farm Bill should be a high priority for Congress and the Trump administration. Farm Bill programs are tremendously important in New Hampshire, where they are helping to permanently protect our increasingly vulnerable farmland, support innovations in farm management, and reduce pollution in our rivers and lakes.

Finally, as a part of the tax reform package it’s likely to consider, Congress can enact tax credits or other fiscal incentives to stimulate cost-effective private investments in natural infrastructure that creates public benefits.
We invite our fellow Granite Staters to join us in using our “outside voice” to speak up for nature by encouraging our representatives to take advantage of these promising opportunities to invest in our nation’s lands and waters – and bring benefits to all of us. Go to www.nature.org/act to help.

Categories: Mark Zankel, budget, administration, Invest in Nature, New Hampshire

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