The National Wildlife Federation has this report on the continued destruction of conservation funding by Congress, this time in the Senate Appropriations committee: Roadkill: Lawmakers Throw Wildlife Under the Bus – National Wildlife Federation.
Nicholas Kristoff offered a provocative column; Republicans, Zealots and Our Security, in Sunday’s New Your Times. Kristoff opens with an intriguing notion. If foreign fanatics were to take our country to the brink of financial crisis we would be up in arms. He makes a compelling case that ideology by the more conservative wing of the GOP should be no different.
We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.
In other words, Republican zeal to lower debts could result in increased interest expenses and higher debts. Their mania to save taxpayers could cost taxpayers. That suggests not governance so much as fanaticism.
We should be alarmed and outraged.
How did we get to this point? When did politics become more important than responsible governing?
Kristoff focuses on the damage this mania for budget cuts does to education. The same could be said for conservation and environmental programs. Try substituting conservation or the environment for education, Kristoff’s words ring just as true.
More broadly, a default would leave America a global laughingstock. Our “soft power,” our promotion of democracy around the world, and our influence would all take a hit. The spectacle of paralysis in the world’s largest economy is already bewildering to many countries. If there is awe for our military prowess and delight in our movies and music, there is scorn for our political/economic management.
While one danger to national security comes from the risk of default, another comes from overzealous budget cuts — especially in education, at the local, state and national levels. When we cut to the education bone, we’re not preserving our future but undermining it.
This is going to be a long hot summer…
A deliberate move away from America’s long conservation tradition…
Responding to the draconian cuts passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in HR 1, 42 of the country’s leading hunting, fishing and outdoor organizations sent a letter to the U. S. Senate today urging restoration of funding to conservation programs.
The key point for me:
While we fully acknowledge that conservation programs should shoulder a fair and proportional burden of reductions to the Federal budget as required to address the budget deficit, these provisions of HR 1, in our view, represent a deliberate move away from America’s long conservation tradition and, specifically with respect to the interests of the hunting, fishing and outdoor community. We are very disappointed that the House considered these actions without consultation with the hunting, fishing and conservation community, and appeal to you to please give significant and favorable consideration to our perspectives. These vital conservation programs with long-standing track records of success are foundational to fish, wildlife and habitat conservation, good for the economy in creating jobs particularly in rural communities, and critical to providing opportunities for access to and enjoyment of fish and wildlife resources by America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. [emphasis mine]
You can add your voice with this Action Alert from Trout Unlimited
Full letter after the jump.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides federal dollars for conserving our national parks, forests, refuges and other public land. Those lands are our national playgrounds and provide outstanding recreational opportunities for all Americans. Outdoor recreation, especially hunting and fishing is an important economic engine.
The American Fly Fishing Trade Association President Gary Berlin’s op/ed says it well…
Many of us will be afield this fall spending time in our favorite hunting and fishing spots. We will be enjoying the tradition of these field sports so important to our lives. But as you head out to the fields, rivers and streams we want to take a moment of your time to let you know about an important tool for conservation of those areas we find near and dear to our hearts.
The United States Congress has a very full plate this fall. Important topics will be debated and may become law. Some of these policy debates present a unique opportunity to secure full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the principal source of federal dollars for protecting land in America’s national parks, forests, and other public landscapes and ensuring recreational opportunities for Americans in every state in the nation.
Since 1977, this fund has been authorized at $900 million per year. Most of the funds come from off-shore oil and gas leases, and are to be used for the purchase, from willing sellers, of land with outstanding natural, recreation, scenic, and other attributes, and for the development of outdoor recreation lands and facilities at the state and local level.
The fund has been chronically underfunded, leaving a huge land protection and outdoor recreation backlog. Without timely and adequate funding, important opportunities to invest in the outdoors could be lost forever.
The beauty of the fund is its unassailable logic –when the federal government gets funds from the sale of resources we all own, it should reinvest some portion of the proceeds from that sale into the dwindling irreplaceable open spaces and recreational opportunities we all need.
The outdoor recreation business is important to local communities surrounding national parks and other public lands. Local economies are made more vibrant and resilient by the natural and cultural amenities and the abundant recreational opportunities provided by parks and public lands. These amenities greatly enhance the quality of life in our communities, help large and small localities attract new residents and businesses and generate tourism-related jobs and revenues.
Hunters and anglers know how important land conservation is to outdoor recreation. Hunting and fishing has become an economic building block in our national economy generating more than 1.6 million jobs and more than $2 billion annually in salaries, wages, and business earnings. In 2006, more than $70 billion was generated in sportsmen-related retail sales. With the “ripple effect”, this translates to more than $190 billion in total economic activity.
People need to know how much we care about this fund and the special places that it protects such as parks, refuges, trails, cultural and historic places, public lands, and other recreation areas in our community.
President, American Fly Fishing Trade Association
901 Front Street, Suite B-125
Louisville, CO 80027
I spend a fair amount of time in Washington, D.C. Recently, I was there for the Nation’s River’s Bass Tournament. The Nation’s River Bass Tournament is an annual event connecting students from Washington D.C. and nearby Virginia and Maryland schools with the outdoors.
The event is put on by Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The event takes place at National Harbor on the Potomac River in Maryland.
More than 300 students came out for a morning of fishing and education. The event helps raise money for Living Classrooms’ academic and workforce development programs. Last year the event raised over $40,000. Living Classroom uses a “hands-on” approach to education and job training. They use urban, natural and maritime resources as “living classrooms”.
Selected students had a chance to fish “tournament style” with volunteer bass “pros” from the local area. These anglers are organized by Captain Steve Chaonas of National Bass Guide Service. Chaconas, a former radio and TV talk show host, has been fishing on the Potomac for nearly forty years. He and his fellow “pros” make sure the kids learn while they are on the water.
Fishing from volunteer guide Peter Yanni’s boat, students Brennen Mayer and Kevin Brown boated the winning catch. Their five “keepers” total more than fifteen pounds with one “lunker” weighing five pounds and five ounces. Winmar Construction sponsored this winning team.
Students who did not go out to fish with the pros moved in groups to fifteen educational stations set up along the East Pier at National Harbor. They also had a chance to get out on the water on Living Classrooms’ ship, the Half Shell. The Half Shell, a Chesapeake Buyboat, is one of several “floating classrooms” that Living Classrooms conduct their shipboard education programs on.
The event much like the, Jim Range National Casting Call, helps highlight the Potomac River as an important economic, educational and community resource. The Potomac River is considered one of the top ten rivers in the country for largemouth bass fishing.
The Potomac is also home to both migratory fish like the stripped bass, American and Hickory shad and herring as well as freshwater fish like bass and sunfish.
If this event was any indication than I can personally attest to the excellent fishing. Twenty-plus boats went out Wednesday morning and by 11:30 a.m. everyone had returned with fish. Most boats returned with fish tipping the scales over three pounds.
Recreational Fishing is an important contributor to our national economy. In Virginia alone it accounts for more than $800 million in retail sales and 15,000 jobs each year. When anglers also make an important contribution by introducing fishing and conservation to young people who might not otherwise have a chance to participate in the sport then you have a real winning combination.
Last Thursday, representatives from the five federal agencies responsible for most of the federal investment in fishing and aquatic habitat provided a group of us an informal briefing on the funding they had proposed for fish and aquatic habitat programs.
Across the board, there was more funding proposed for the various fisheries programs than I have seen in a long time. There is also money included for more youth education including grants for programs to “educate and energize young hunters and anglers.”
Those investments are what will keep the wonderful outdoor recreation we have here possible.
You can read more of my columns at News Virginian.com
We are all reading or hearing about the economic stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama and Congress will be working on. Whether you think it is a good idea or not, the likelihood that some form of stimulus package will become law is pretty much a certainty.
Last month, 31 hunting, fishing, conservation and environmental organizations jointly sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, supporting additional funding for habitat conservation and green infrastructure projects.
What I found very interesting and frankly refreshing about who had signed the letter was that these 31 groups have not always been willing to work together.
Environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society joined with the American Sportfishing Association, the Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in support of specific conservation funding.
The letter stated, “The attached recommendations represent a unique consensus among a wide range of organizations specifically aimed at habitat-oriented projects that benefit fish and wildlife while stimulating local economies, particularly through job creation.”
This is a remarkable turn of events. Hopefully one that will become a pattern and not an exception.
Like many, I am not sure the answer to our nation’s economic woes is more government spending. But, if taxpayer funds are going to be used to stimulate the economy then using that money for habitat conservation, public access and recreational opportunity makes sense.
Investments in our natural resources offer a variety of economic benefits. Hunting, fishing and other recreational activities are economic engines that provide tax revenue, conservation dollars and jobs for local economies.
These organizations point out that investments in conservation projects provide job-creation opportunities in engineering, landscaping, hydrology and other biological fields. These types of projects need specialized equipment operators, construction crews and many other skilled laborers.
The group noted, “Our estimates indicate that over 160,000 jobs would be created through this funding request. This figure represents direct job creation as a result of the proposed stimulus investments and does not include secondary job creation. Most of these programs and projects would be initiated and jobs created within 3-6 months, with the goal of completing obligations within one year.”
When you add it all up, these groups are recommending an investment of nearly $9 billion. Seems like a lot of money doesn’t it? Sure does to me.
But if you look at it as part of the whole and if the current $700 billion being discussed is close to the final amount, then these programs will only get a bit more than one and a quarter percent of the total.
I think our natural resources, fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities deserve that and more.
Let’s take a look at some of the specific recommendations.
For the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, they recommend increased funding for Habitat Restoration Programs like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, the Fish Passage Program and the Coastal Program. Because of the project backlog in each of these programs increased funding would immediately lead to more jobs.
Another U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that could use more money is the North American Wetland Conservation Act grants program. NAWCA has a great track record of success. Demand for these grants is growing and exceeds current funding levels.
New funding would mean engineering and construction related jobs. Given the importance of wetlands and the continued projected losses of this critical habitat, more NAWCA grants make sense.
The National Park Service is another important agency in desperate need of funding. Estimates of the operations and maintenance backlog are somewhere north of $8 billion, more than half of that amount is needed just for road and trail repair.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a number of important conservation programs at the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The groups making the recommendations point out that U.S. Forest Service could use funding assistance for sustainable forests. Funds would be used to improve water quality and wildlife habitat while ensuring a supply of wood and forest products.
Programs like Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation with a backlog of more than $400 million, would use the funding to improve recreational access and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
Wildfire is a growing worry. More than 100 million acres of state, private and national forests are at risk across the nation. Funding for hazardous fuels reduction and post-fire restoration would help make our rural communities safer, provide jobs, support local economies and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.
Valley residents and visitors know what an asset our National Parks and National Forests are. Using new funding to improve these important recreational venues is a smart investment.
Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor recreations are important contributors to our national economy. Hunters and anglers spend $76 billion each year to enjoy their sports. They are an economic engine with a “ripple effect” of $192 billion.
That ripple effect means people have jobs and local economies thrive. Besides the direct hunting and fishing jobs, other businesses benefit – businesses like gas stations, retail, restaurants and hotels in every state and congressional district.
As taxpayers we have a right and duty to express our views on how the government spends our money. If we are going to spend the money, then these programs and projects are worthwhile investments.
Take the time to tell our elected officials that hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation are important to our economy and deserve financial support.
You can read more of my columns in the News Virginian.