Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Conservation Groups Concerned About Budget Cuts

It has always been tough to be caught between a rock and hard place and everyone has experienced that feeling at one time or another during their lives. Now it seems that recreational hunters and fishermen are the ones caught in between.

During this latest budget crisis, many programs are being looked at for significant cuts. There are few, if any, sacred cows, as Congressional leaders look to ways to curb the out of control spending that has occurred in recent years, especially under President Obama. Even the defense department has floated the idea of reducing pay, retirement, and other benefits of military members.

Now it seems that conservation programs funded by the federal government are also going to experience the axe. And they are not happy about it.  The linked article is not referring to radical tree-hugger who prays to Mother Earth. The folks that are more than a little concerned are folks who hunt and fish. Contrary to some popular opinions about these folks, they really do care about the condition of the environment. Granted, they want the nice environment so they can hunt and fish, not to be “one with nature” as the radicals can be like. In all the budget cutting talks, programs that improve hunting and fishing grounds are likely to see hits (as well as almost every other program under the sun).

The tough part here for the conservative movement is these folks are more than likely to vote Republican. These are land use people. They want to see good programs that conserve nature, but not lock it away. Since it is Republicans leading the charge to cut spending, they are starting to feel some of the ire of this group.

Back in power, House Republicans may have poisoned the well with their austere spending strategy, including the fiscal 2012 interior and environment spending bill that is on track for approval Tuesday in the Appropriations Committee.

Under the legislation, the Interior Department’s overall budget would fall $730 millions from fiscal 2011. A popular land and water conservation fund would see a more than 80 percent cut to $62 million, will funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act would get a 47 percent reduction to $20 million. State Wildlife Grants would also be cut 64 percent to $22 million.

Wildlife-themed riders are also sprinkled throughout the bill, including language that allows chemical companies and large agriculture operators to skirt pesticide permit requirements and enforcement of certain mountain top mining rules. Conservation groups are complaining the language will dirty rivers and streams they use for recreation.

Other riders include a prohibition on judicial review of Interior’s decision to delist wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species Act, as well as zeroing out of funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list new species and designate critical habitat under the law. (Source: Politico)

I did a little digging around and while the cuts at these agencies are going to be steep, the situation isn’t as critical as the article makes it sound. For example, the judicial review really isn’t necessary since the reintroduction of wolves to these regions has met the criteria required to finally be delisted. I see this more as good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. As for the pesticide issues, even Republicans are not stupid enough to lay off laws that protect the environment. It is true that part of the conservative movement is to reign in government, but that doesn’t mean they are going to allow drinking water to get poisoned. When reading the article, please try to remember the source. The Politico isn’t above spinning the story to show Republicans in a bad light.

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