Conservation Groups Decry Proposed Cuts To Key Programs In Trump Budget

Conservation groups widely supported President Donald Trump’s naming of Ryan Zinke as Department of Interior secretary, but they’re pretty much unanimous in opposing the president’s proposed 2018 budget released today.

“Trump budget walls off land and water conservation,” read the headline in a Trout Unlimited news release opposing the proposal.

Here’s how the American Bird Conservancy broke down the proposal:

  • The Department of Agriculture’s budget would be cut by $4.7 billion — a 21 percent decrease from last year’s funding levels. At risk are key programs such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the National Resource Conservation Service’s Working Lands for Wildlife. These programs provide support to farmers to conserve and restore habitats, potentially preventing the need to list species of conservation concern under the Endangered Species Act.
  • The Department of the Interior would lose $1.5 billion — a 12 percent decrease. That would put at risk essential migratory bird conservation laws and programs including the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, State Wildlife Grants, the North American Wetland Conservation Act, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The proposed budget’s emphasis on energy development on public lands would also put at risk progress on conserving sagebrush habitat, late-successional forests, and desert streams that are essential for the conservation of declining species such as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by $2.6 billion — a 31 percent decrease. Such a severe cut would require extreme staff reductions and threaten to undermine the agency’s ability to function effectively. To protect human health and wildlife, EPA needs additional resources, not a budget reduction. Without adequate funding, the agency will have significantly reduced capacity to protect birds and other wildlife from neonicotinoid pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

“The unwarranted cuts in the budget proposal would take the EPA and other programs back to the last century.” said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “For members of Trout Unlimited and people like me who have directly benefitted from the water quality and natural resources improvements of the past decades, this is completely unacceptable. We will work hard to convince the Trump Administration and Congress to …  reconsider many of these items, and do much better before the  FY 2018 budget is finally decided in the fall.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership called the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is funded from offshore oil and gas receipts, the single most important federal program for enhancing habitat and sportsmen’s access.

Other reactions:

Representatives from several other groups also weighed in to criticize the budget proposal. Among them:

“Gutting the programs and agency funding that helps conserve fish and wildlife and our sporting traditions is no way to support the rural and local economies that need outdoor recreation dollars most. Ignoring the real benefits of investing in conservation will erode the foundation of hunting and fishing — public access and quality places to pursue our traditions.”
– Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a lead group in the coalition known as America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation, and Preservation.

“Outdoor recreation businesses drive spending and sign paychecks in rural communities, but they certainly couldn’t thrive if public lands and waters were closed or left without active management. The places where America plays, and the products Americans use in the outdoors, wouldn’t exist without those other made-in-America jobs — those of the federal land managers, park rangers, and biologists who safeguard our lands and waters so we can enjoy them.”
– Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association.

“Lawmakers should understand that cutting the budget for America’s historic preservation programs will directly affect each state’s bottom line. Slashing federal funding for historic preservation and National Park Service operations will negatively affect heritage tourism, limit states’ abilities to protect their most important historic sites, and blunt the economic benefits of the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, which has preserved more than 41,000 buildings, created 2.3 million jobs, and catalyzed $121 billion in community revitalization for Main Streets throughout America.”
– Adam Jones, associate director of government relations for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The proposed budget released today by the president is, in a word, unacceptable. If adopted as written, this proposal not only would fundamentally diminish a wide range of programs that conserve and uphold public access to our lands and waters; it also would undermine the ability of key entities such as the Interior and Agriculture departments to do their jobs and responsibly.”
– Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers president and CEO.