Good News and Bad News from Capitol Hill on Conservation Funding

From The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership May 4, 2006 – Several issues of importance to the hunting, fishing and conservation community are being dealt with this week in Congress. Appropriations and budgeting decisions in particular were made today by the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee with good news and bad news for sportsmen’s conservation interests. Good News: BLM and Forest Service Land Sales Proposal Rejected – Today the Subcommittee passed legislation funding the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 that does not include proposals put forth in the administration’s budget to sell Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands to fund rural schools and other federal operations. Several of the country’s leading hunting, fishing and conservation organizations delivered a message to key members of Congress yesterday, including the Subcommittee’s chairman and ranking member, objecting to the land sale proposal. (letter available upon request) Bad News: Deep Funding Cut For State Wildlife Grants – The Subcommittee funded the State Wildlife Grants Program at $50 million, a 27 percent cut from last year’s enacted amount and $24 million less than the administration’s recommendation of $74 million. This came despite a letter to the Subcommittee signed by 170 House Members asking that the program be funded at $85 million. The State Wildlife Grants Program is the nation’s core program for keeping wildlife healthy and off the endangered species list. Naomi Edelson, Chair of TRCP’s State Wildlife Grant Working Group commented, “This program funds proactive efforts at the state level to conserve wildlife before they become rarer and more costly to protect. We will continue to seek an increase in funding as this bill works its way through the House.” Waiting to See: Funding for Energy Development Fish and Wildlife Impacts? – The Subcommittee has not put out specific final numbers on the funding it approved for the Bureau of Land Management but the Subcommittee’s initial statement points to a total $37 million increase in funding for the Department of the Interior to expedite expansion of energy development on Federal lands. Interior had asked for $25.4 million dollars in funding to expedite drilling on BLM lands. Yesterday several hunting and fishing organizations delivered a message to the subcommittee stating: “Rather than asking for significant increases only in funding for expediting energy related permits, we believe that commensurate attention should be paid to insure that there is adequate staff and resources in place to properly manage fish and wildlife habitats and to mitigate for impacts from expanded energy development.” The group, in its letter, also expressed hope that should BLM be given more oil and gas development funding, it would mean the agency would stop re-directing fish and wildlife staff and resources away from their habitat work to deal with drilling permitting. (letter available upon request) *** The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading conservation organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for conservation and management, and expand access to places to hunt and fish. For more about the TRCP and its partner organizations visit: www.trcp.org