Outdoor group says President’s budget invests in conservation
In a $3.99 trillion budget released February 3rd by the White House, sportsmen’s priorities are singled out for robust funding, drawing praise from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and many of its partners.
Overall, the president’s budget for fiscal year 2016 commits strong funding levels to core sportsmen’s programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program. It also includes revenue from the passage of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, a TRCP legislative priority that was recently reintroduced in the 114th Congress.
The president’s budget also would end the mandatory, sweeping spending caps harmful to a range of programs, including those crucial to conservation. When the existing budget expires at the end of FY 2015, these sequester cuts will return to the entire suite of conservation priorities unless Congress can reach agreement on a deal – by no means a foregone conclusion.
“In recent decades, sportsmen have criticized the gradual erosion of federal support in conservation, particularly to programs critical to hunting and angling,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “We are heartened by this administration’s recognition of the importance of these key measures by its release of a budget that, while not perfect, represents a positive investment in the business plan for outdoor recreation.”
While Congress is ultimately responsible, albeit with the president’s consent, for making spending decisions for the coming fiscal year, the White House budget establishes important benchmarks that will be used by members of the House and Senate in the deliberations to come. Line-item highlights of the White House budget follow:
North American Wetlands Conservation Act: Funding for NAWCA remains level at $34 million.
State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program: This key program is funded at $70 million.
Land and Water Conservation Fund: The LWCF is fully funded at $900 million and includes the “Making Public Lands Public” public access provision.
WaterSMART: The Bureau of Reclamation program receives $58.05 million, $7.5 million above FY15 levels.
U.S. Forest Service: More than $30 million is earmarked to address the maintenance backlog on trails and roads in the national forest system.
The budget also earmarks $78 million for conservation and restoration of Western sage steppe landscapes, which support a vibrant outdoors-based economy as well as hundreds of species important to sportsmen.
“We are pleased that the administration has strongly invested in sage steppe landscape conservation,” said Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. “This investment will benefit this critically important ecosystem, protecting more than 350 species of plants and animals and ensuring a strong outdoor recreation-based economy in the West.”
The administration’s inclusion of provisions related to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would revise the funding of wildfire management and suppression, likewise drew praise.
“The Nature Conservancy strongly agrees with the need to find a budget fix that meets America’s growing need to fight wildfire disasters in a way that does not come at the expense of other critical programs,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. government relations for the Conservancy. “The frequent practice of ‘fire borrowing’ seriously impairs the ability of federal agencies to carry out some of the very programs that would reduce wildfire risk in the first place, among many other conservation programs. That practice needs to stop, so we greatly appreciate the support we’ve seen from the administration and bipartisan champions in Congress.”
Sportsmen also voiced support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular conservation program that sustains fish and wildlife habitat and expands public access
“Once again the Obama administration and Interior Department have demonstrated their enduring commitment to the LWCF with another strong budget proposal for FY 16,” said Steve Moyer, vice president of Trout Unlimited. “Trout Unlimited supports this proposal because the LWCF continues to be one of the nation’s very best tools for protecting and restoring trout and salmon habitats.”
Finally, sportsmen commended the budget’s funding of federal land management agencies.
“One of the justifications underpinning state-based efforts to sell or transfer ownership of federal lands is the supposed inability of the federal government to manage the lands it already owns,” said Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “In part, this logic is erroneously derived from the fact that inadequate funds are currently allocated to key land management programs. The response to this problem, then, isn’t to sell off federal lands and close off millions of acres to public access and sportsmen but to properly commit to their management – a resolution that the president’s budget offers.”
From The Outdoor Wire