The federal appropriations process currently underway in both houses of Congress includes numerous provisions that sportsmen – and other citizens who value healthy fish and wildlife habitat, accessible outdoors opportunities and clean water – have reason to criticize, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers announced today.
The House Appropriations Committee met this morning to consider its spending bill for fiscal year 2016. In keeping with the blueprint unveiled by a subcommittee last week, the bill slashes funding for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency and would hamstring priority programs for sportsmen. Critics were quick to condemn the committee’s “shortsighted” approach.
“Given the House budget bill released last week, we were prepared for the results of today’s markup,” said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. “Yet the ramifications of the House budget are sobering. This bill would systematically dismantle measures that have been key to our continued ability to enjoy and access our outdoor traditions – those handed down by generations of Americans. This shortsighted approach fails to serve the interests of the vast majority of American citizens.”
Specific components of the House FY 2016 budget are as follow:
With already historically low levels of funding and loss of overall investment in conservation, $246 million for Interior and related agencies would be cut from already inadequate fiscal year 2015 funding levels.
The Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement would be precluded from utilizing modern science and technology to update 30-year-old stream regulations and apply important protections for fish, wildlife and local communities.
The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, on which state agencies rely to work with key partners in conserving important fish and wildlife resources to reduce management costs and leverage strategic federal investments, would be deeply cut.
The EPA would be prohibited from implementing the new “waters of the U.S.” rule, which would restore clarity to the federal Clean Water Act and secure valuable fisheries and wetlands habitat as well as drinking water relied upon by millions of Americans.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would be barred from issuing a decision on whether the greater sage grouse should be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A broad range of sportsmen, state governments and other stakeholders are currently collaborating on management plans to keep the bird off the endangered species list by conserving its habitat, which is relied upon by hundreds of other species of fish and wildlife like mule deer, pronghorn and elk.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the most important programs in the country for expanding public access and acquiring lands with fish and wildlife values, would be subject to funding cuts far below current levels, and new restrictions would limit critical components of this successful program.
The U.S. Forest Service wildfire budget would be constrained, forcing the Forest Service to utilize funds from other important areas, potentially increasing the costs of preventing and fighting wildfires and diminishing the agency’s ability to mitigate these costs for future years.
“Whether it’s the wide open country that supports greater sage-grouse and big game or native brook trout fisheries in the East, lots is at stake in the House appropriations bill,” said John Gale, BHA conservation director. “Instead of bartering our children’s inheritance for political favor, however, we need to work together to ensure our federal and state agencies have adequate resources to address the management needs of our fish, wildlife, water and public lands.
“We hope Senator Murkowski and her colleagues will rise above divisive political ideologies and pass a thoughtful budget package through regular order,” concluded Gale. “The American public is already frustrated with dysfunction in Washington, D.C. The Senate has an opportunity to renew our faith in Congress by demonstrating a better approach to sustaining the places where we go to find solitude, restore our spirits and get our boots dirty.”
A Senate appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to consider funding levels for the Interior Department and related agencies this afternoon.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife