Important Wildlife, Access Funding Source Endangered
Putting the “sub” in subcommittee, a U.S. House of Representatives panel has introduced a budget that zeros out an important funding source for wildlife conservation in the Northwest and elsewhere, one that is supported not through tax dollars but rather dedicated revenues from oil and gas royalties.
The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee’s proposed 2014 not-spending plan kiboshes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a move that drew immediate ire from sportsmen and lands advocates.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential for all sportsmen and women who rely on access to the outdoors for hunting and fishing,” said Barry Nilson, Eastern Washington regional director of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, in a press release. “This bill violates a promise made to the American people to protect our outdoor legacy for future generations.”
“LWCF has been one of the most important and effective conservation tools for Washington state and cutting all spending for it would be a real disservice to a public which has time and time again voiced its support for federal, state, and local land conservation,” added Frances Dinger at the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program by email.
WDFW assistant director Joe Stohr noted that two “significant examples” of the funding’s use in Washington include acquisition of parts of the Colockum and L.T. Murray Wildlife Areas in Kittitas County.
It would also affect the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s budget, how much money it can give to states through its Wildlife Grants program (a source for Washington wolf funding), impact creation of new wildlife refuges and waterfowl conservation, according to sportsman Ben Lamb in a blog on Outdoor Life today.
In calling for sportsmen to contact their U.S. representatives, he points to the economic impact of hunting and angling:
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for a balanced budget. But cutting programs that are guaranteed to put money in the bank for small businesses, outdoor manufacturers and keeps our American heritage of public hunting and fishing especially on public lands is simply the House subcommittee cutting off their nose to spite their face.
The $900 million that otherwise goes into the account annually would be spent other ways.
“This is a difficult budget year, and this bill reflects the extraordinarily hard choices needed to maintain critical investments and services for local communities,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers in a press release. “In order to do more with less, the legislation seeks to protect vital programs that directly affect the safety and well-being of Americans, while dramatically scaling back lower-priority, or ‘nice-to-have’ programs.”
Yes, to a degree some of this is worst-casing, but if it does come to pass, it will push back the proposed purchase of $3.5 million worth of conservation easements in the Klickitat Canyon that would protect riparian areas and keep a working forest working, and a $3 million plan to buy development rights to Merrill and Ring’s Pysht Coastal Forest in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to Dinger.
Over its 50 years, the program has done a lot of good for wildlife, habitat and sportsmen. Dinger pointed to several more examples in the Evergreen State:
“Protecting the Wenatchee National Forest where hunters and anglers can have access to big-game hunting and river, stream, and lake fishing opportunities in a scenic back-country setting.
“Olympic National Forest offers opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing within the same area.
“Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge offers great waterfowl hunting opportunities and habitat restoration work there ensures hunters will continue to see healthy wildlife populations for years to come.
“Dozens of boat launches and trails across the state to increase access to wilderness area for anglers, hunters, hikers, and campers.
“Habitat restoration work enabled by LWCF protects migratory pathways for ungulates and many other birds and animals that are essential for maintaining healthy, huntable herds and flocks. Watershed restoration protects everyone’s water while also supporting healthy fish populations in the Columbia River, the Puget Sound, and statewide. Without these investments, wildlife would not thrive and sportsmen and outdoor businesses would suffer.”
Defunding would be “devastating for Washington and the nation,” Dinger said in an email.
The good news is that there’s a bill in the Senate that fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one that is sponsored by both Oregon Senators, many Western Democrats and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.
That said, wildlife habitat and conservation should not be political. All Americans feel strongly about the importance of that.