Congressional budgets propose to slash duck dollars

The executive director of Ducks Unlimited, H. Dale Hall, had an
excellent piece this past Monday Feb. 21 in the Atlanta (Ga.)
Constitution Journal. He titled it, “Cut federal waste but
leave the good alone.”

DU drafted the op-ed in response to House Resolution 1, the
budget bill that the U.S. House of Representatives leadership
unveiled two weeks ago. HR1 would fund the federal government for
the last seven months of the fiscal year while, bill authors note,
it cuts “spending by over $100 billion from the President’s fiscal
year 2011 request.”

Folks like Dale Hall are pointing out that those cuts include
eliminating conservation programs, such as the North American
Wetland Conservation Act grants. Conservation groups have long
maintained that NAWCA dollars are some of the most cost-effective,
efficient monies in government. For every federal dollar invested
through NAWCA, $3 to $4 of nonfederal monies are secured as
matching funds, often from conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited
and Pheasants Forever, plus state funding like Minnesota RIM. The
Build A Wildlife Area effort here in Minnesota has generated well
over six figures in dollars over the years to match federal funds
like NAWCA.

According to Hall, NAWCA alone has protected and conserved more
than 25 million acres of essential habitat for migratory birds and
also serves hundreds of nongame species. Prime wildlife habitat,
these lands also are incredibly important for all types of
recreation, especially hunting. Those hunters pay excise taxes on
their equipment, which – along with actual license fees – fund
state natural resources agencies and keep them in business.

“Hunting and fishing is about an $80 billion per year industry,”
Hall writes. “Billions of dollars per year – a net gain for the
federal treasury – are returned through direct taxes paid by those
who work in that industry: manufacturers, guides, outfitters, the
hospitality sector, retail and others who support getting hunters
and anglers into the field.”

My entire life, this scribe has watched Congress and presidents
do a borderline criminal job at budgeting. President Obama’s
bipartisan Debt Commission Report last fall had some excellent
ideas, and if I were king for a day, I’d implement them all
immediately. Unfortunately it was DOA because many on the left
couldn’t stomach the entitlement cuts, and Congressional
Republicans wouldn’t tolerate any tax increases. The result is a
lousy budget from the president, which still relies too much on
deficit spending, and an HR1 from Congress that targets small
potatoes discretionary spending like NAWCA. Meanwhile the
80-percent-plus of the budget locked up in defense and entitlements
remains the herd of elephants in the corner.

Conservationists can see that we’re all going to have to accept
some cuts to our sacred cows, but good government programs
shouldn’t see their budgets annhilated.

Hall says it better than I:

“At Ducks Unlimited, we strongly urge budget cutting efforts
that actually work to reduce the deficit. We do, however, believe
that won’t happen through political rhetoric, but rather through
legitimate analysis of the costs and benefits of all
programs.

“Finding ways to reduce the massive federal deficit simply must be
done, but in doing so, let’s make sure to support those federal
investments that pay for themselves several times over – and be
critical of those that are truly wasteful. Conservation has always,
and continues to, pay for itself. Congress and the administration
should approach the budget challenge with facts and analyses, not a
meat cleaver.”

Thank you Dale Hall and Memphis, Tenn.-based Ducks Unlimited for
taking a stand.

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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