Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

More conservation cuts ahead?

Washington – Just a few weeks after optimistic conservation groups spoke of a Senate bill that included a hike in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to an impressive $700 million for next year, they’re now decrying a House proposal that would reduce that funding from the current level of $345 million to just $66 million in fiscal year 2013.

The LWCF, among other things, conserves public land for habitat, and provides recreational access for hunters, hikers, and others. Federal dollars are awarded to state agencies or local government units that supply matching funds. The proposed increase in the Senate would’ve helped purchase easements in the Dakotas to preserve native wetlands and grasslands, officials said.

What funding level the LWCF eventually receives might be a matter of timing, as much as anything, according to Steve Kline, director of the Center for Agriculture and Public Lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. If a bill isn’t approved soon – and negotiating the differing House and Senate versions might be daunting challenge – it might be placed on the back burner with several items until after the presidential election. After that, it could be acted on by a lame-duck Congress. Or not.

“It would be an issue for hot debate” during the lame-duck session, Kline said.

Congress may designate up to $900 million each year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, money that comes from royalties paid by companies that drill off-shore for oil and gas.

Further, according to the TRCP, the House Interior Appropriations bill could cut funding for national wildlife refuges from $486 million to $437 million.

“This bill has made funding decisions that do not reflect the needs of American sportsmen, who comprise a critical component of the national economy,” Kline said in a TRCP press release. “Hunters and anglers are willing to do our part in these lean budget times, but the cuts contained in the (bill) will accelerate the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and may mean fewer days afield for outdoor enthusiasts.” (The TRCP also points out that the bill includes a rider that “bars the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing and implementing science-based Clean Water Act guidance or initiating future rulemaking.”)

According to Ducks Unlimited, the House bill would include other cuts, such as:

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget would be cut by $317 million;
  • The U.S. Geological Survey’s budget would be cut by $101 million;
  • The North American Wetlands Conservation Act would be cut by $13 million;
  • State and tribal wildlife grants would be cut by $30 million.

Several groups responded to the proposed House spending cuts to conservation, including Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.

“In this time of necessary spending cuts, it is important to make wise decisions and not disproportionally cut programs that create revenue and add to the nation’s overall economy,” he said in a DU press release.

“Recreational fishing has a $125 billion economic impact to the country each year and supports more than a million jobs. Much of this economic engine is in communities that have little or no other economic force. The sport-fishing industry supports balanced fiscal management that keeps recreational revenue programs producing both dollars and jobs.”

Farm Bill questions

Kline also was critical of a House Farm Bill with a current allocation that cuts about $10 billion more than a Senate-passed version.

The bill wouldn’t necessarily cut more from conservation, but rather the food nutrition (food stamps) program. However, the discrepancy in funding could cause an impasse between eventual House and Senate conferees, delaying passage of a new Farm Bill.

“The question is, will it be reconcilable?” Kline said.

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