Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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National conservation priorities put on hold

Field Editor

Washington, D.C. While national priorities have changed in the
wake of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.,
domestic issues, including conservation, are likely to move forward
in coming months. However, conservationists say they expect that
Congress will be focused on national security in the immediate
future.

When progress resumes on domestic legislation, competing
interests will likely find themselves fighting over a smaller
financial pie.

“It’s clear budget priorities have shifted,” says Jim Mosher, of
the Izaak Walton League. “At this time, the amount of federal funds
that will be directed in response of the Sept. 11 events can tally
up to $50 billion. That’s not a trivial amount in the federal
budget.”

The pending congressional agenda for conservationists includes
reauthorization of the Farm Bill and the Conservation and
Re-investment Act (CARA), both of which contain substantial
conservation funding. Prior to the terrorist attacks,
conservationists were optimistic that conservation would be a
priority in the new Farm Bill. Officials at Pheasants Forever say
they are optimistic that commitment to farmland conservation will
continue, but are unsure how much funding will be available.

CARA, which collapsed in the final days of the Clinton
Administration despite widespread support, was reintroduced in the
current session and is now on hold. Naomi Edelson at the
International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says CARA
supporters have been assured that bill will move forward. The
question is: when?

“Nobody knows,” answers Edelson. “CARA is an important issue and
has strong support, but now is not the time for it to move
forward.”

Presently, Congress has other work to do. Edelson says Alaskan
congressman Don Young, one of CARA’s authors, is chair of the House
Transportation Committee, which is grappling with security issues
related to transportation and terrorism. The terrorism crisis and
related uncertainty make it difficult to predict a congressional
schedule.

One conservation issue that remains in the forefront is proposed
oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Mosher says
that Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe has tried to link the controversial
proposal with national security. However, other drilling
supporters, such as Alaskan Sen. Frank Murkowski, say the drilling
proposal should be addressed in upcoming energy legislation. Mosher
says his organization counters arguments citing a new, national
need for the oil by pointing how that improvements in vehicle
efficiency standards would save a similar amount of fuel.

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