Helena, MT -- Sportsman's Groups are raising alarms across the nation over the proposed budget cuts included in HR 1, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 19, 2011.
Representatives from multiple wildlife/habitat conservation organizations -- including Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership -- participated in a telenews conference on Wednesday to discuss the tremendous impact the budget cuts of HR1 could have on several funds and grant programs that hunters and anglers depend on for recreational opportunities.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would have 90 percent of its funds -- $398 million -- slashed from current levels, essentially shutting the program down.
Among the many conservation and recreational efforts it helps fund and protect in the U.S. at both state and national levels, the LWCF plays an integral part in providing funding to ensure sportsman's access to public lands and protection of additional places to hunt and fish.
"Sportsmen and women depend on having places to go to hunt and fish. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been instrumental in providing these opportunities and with reliable funding in the future could go even further to ensure access to existing public lands, making public lands public," said Ben Lamb of the Montana Wildlife Federation.
Currently, offshore oil and gas drilling provide funding for the LWCF (not tax payer dollars) and for every one dollar invested, the LWCF generates four dollars in economic value.
Also impacted would be the North American Wetlands Act Grant Program, which would lose all funding -- $47.6 million in cuts from FY 2010.
For more than 20 years, the NAWCA has provided grants through public-private relationships that have impacted more than 26 million acres of wetland and wetland-associated landscapes.
Any grant awarded by the NAWCA legally requires a $1:1 grant-to-match ratio, however though partnering with private landowners, States, non-governmental conservation organizations, tribes, Federal agencies, trusts, and corporations, the average amount of non-federal matching funds exceeds the requested grant amount by more than 3:1.
Other programs slated for dramatic cuts or elimination include the Farm Bill conservation programs, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, the Clean Water Act, and more.
“Finding ways to reduce the massive federal deficit simply must be done. But in doing so, let’s make sure to support those federal investments that pay for themselves several times over -- and be critical of those that are truly wasteful,” commented Dale Hall, President and CEO of Ducks Unlimited, Inc. “Conservation has always, and continues to, pay for itself. Congress and the administration should approach the budget challenge with facts and analyses, not a meat cleaver.”
Congress returned to session this week and will attempt to negotiate the final budget before the most recent continuing resolution expires on April 8th.