The House and Senate will each likely pass its own version of a Fiscal 2016 Federal Budget, and both will fail to appropriately invest in critical conservation programs, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced last week. The TRCP’s coalition of organizations and grassroots partners, who work to guarantee Americans quality places to hunt and fish, have urged Congress to invest in the habitat resources that power a thriving outdoor economy. But, despite these efforts, sportsmen have cause for concern.
“America’s 40 million hunters and anglers generate about $90 billion in economic activity each and every year,” says TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “We pay our own way, with excise taxes, license and tag fees, and membership in a whole variety of on-the-ground conservation organizations. But hunting and angling can only thrive as long as the federal government continues to invest in conserving habitat and improving access, and these proposed budget plans fail in that respect.”
America’s natural resources are the infrastructure of the outdoor recreation economy, one that accounts for $646 billion in direct consumer spending every year and more than 6 million jobs. Both the House and Senate budgets seek dramatic cuts for non-defense discretionary spending—the more aggressive House plan slashes $759 billion through 2025, and the Senate plan will cut $236 billion over the same time period. Conservation funding will certainly be included in these cuts.
“These planned reductions go beyond the already sequestered funding levels, so we’re looking at deep cuts to already insufficient funding,” says TRCP Government Relations Director Steve Kline, who urged the House last week to consider robust funding for sage-grouse, wetlands, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and other matched-dollar grant programs. “Conservation dollars represent less than one percent of the total federal budget and have no meaningful impact on the federal deficit, but defunding conservation would have profoundly negative long-term impacts. In some cases, sportsmen and land managers would lose three dollars in matching funds for every dollar cut.”
April 15 is the statutory deadline for Congress to pass budgets, which provide essential guidance to the Appropriations Committees that make final funding decisions about individual programs before the upcoming fiscal year begins on October 1.