Federal Funding Cuts Jeopardize SW Wildlife Refuges

Washington, D.C. – A new plan to accommodate federal funding cuts for staff and conservation programs at national wildlife refuges in the Southwest threatens to undermine endangered species recovery efforts, hinder conservation partnerships and turn away the public. According to the Southwest Region National Wildlife Refuge System Workforce Plan, released yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), wildlife conservation will suffer as 55 FWS staff are cut by fiscal year (FY) 2009 in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. “Our magnificent wildlife heritage is under siege,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA). “The Southwest plan is just the latest in a series that shows us how the federal government is abrogating its responsibility to conserve our nation's wildlife treasures.” According to the plan, a dozen biologists will be cut as well as 11 refuge managers, among others. The dramatic staffing cuts will result in decreased habitat management and restoration projects, fewer acres managed to control invasive species, a reduction of public use opportunities, and a degraded infrastructure. Arizona will see a 16% reduction in field staff at refuges, while New Mexico will lose 20%, Oklahoma 18% and Texas 11%. All 2.86 million acres of the 45 national wildlife refuges in the Southwest will suffer, unless more funding is allocated by Congress. Along with a diverse group of national conservation and recreation groups, the NWRA has determined that the 100-acre National Wildlife Refuge System requires at least $451.5 million in FY08 simply to stabilize the decline in Refuge System stewardship. This funding level accounts for inflation over the past four years and would prevent further declines in biological and public use programs on national wildlife refuges across the country. The full Southwest Workforce Plan can be viewed at: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/docs/R2%20Wor... Established in 1975, the National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only organization dedicated exclusively to protecting, enhancing and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System, lands and waters set aside by the American people to protect our country's diverse wildlife heritage. A national membership organization, the organization benefits from the support of U.S. Fish and Wildlife professionals, more than 125 refuge “Friends” group affiliates, and thousands of individual members in all states. For more information, visit www.refugenet.org.