House Interior Appropriations Bill Slashes Conservation Funding

The House Appropriations Committee today voted for an Interior Appropriations bill that slashes funding for conservation and continues a month-long assault on Clean Water Act protections for healthy wetlands, clean streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

The deep funding cuts approved in the bill will undermine conservation, public land management, and the outdoor recreation economy. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves public land essential for fish and wildlife as well as hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation, will be cut from $345 million in the current fiscal year to approximately $66 million in FY 2013. Funding to operate and maintain National Wildlife Refuges, which not only conserve wildlife but generate $1.7 billion in economic activity and support 27,000 private sector jobs, is cut from $486 million to $437 million.

“This bill has made funding decisions that do not reflect the needs of American sportsmen, who comprise a critical component of the national economy,” says Steve Kline, Director of the Center for Agriculture and Private Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation partnership. “Hunters and anglers are willing to do our part in these lean budget times, but the cuts contained in the House Interior Appropriations bill will accelerate the loss of fish and wildlife habitat and may mean fewer days afield for outdoor enthusiasts. Combined with counterproductive policy riders, this bill is a losing proposition for the nation’s sportsmen.”

The Interior Appropriations bill is the latest in a series of bills and amendments in the House and Senate that undermine hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation traditions along with the economic activity driven by these sports. This bill includes a rider (Section 434) barring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing and implementing science-based Clean Water Act guidance or initiating future rulemaking. Earlier this month, the House passed an Energy and Water bill with similar restrictions placed on the Army Corps of Engineers.

Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) continued to lead the fight to restore clean water protections by offering an amendment on Wednesday to strip this and other damaging riders from the bill. Unfortunately, this amendment was defeated on a vote of 19 in favor and 28 against.

“From appropriations bills in the House to amendments proposed to the Senate Farm Bill, protections for streams, wetland habitat, and drinking water for 117 million Americans are under attack,” says Scott Kovarovics, Conservation Director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “In the past month, Congress has taken aim at the Clean Water Act and, inexplicably, pulled both barrels.”

“These riders would leave us with an intolerable status quo that threatens wetlands and tributaries that provide clean water for iconic systems like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, recharge aquifers, help retain floodwaters, and provide important fish and wildlife habitat,” says Jan Goldman-Carter, Senior Manager, Wetlands and Water Resources, for the National Wildlife Federation. “They are also out of step with public opinion that consistently supports strong and broad Clean Water Act protections.”

“The attacks on the Clean Water Act are unprecedented in recent memory,” says Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. “Not one but a growing number of threats are converging on the water resources and fish and wildlife that matter most to sportsmen. Members of Congress should focus more on restoring protections for our waters than racing each other to tear them down and should work with EPA and the Corps to enable those agencies to effectively implement the Clean Water Act.”

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