The Arizona Game and Fish Department would like to make constituents aware of drastic funding cuts to wildlife conservation programs contained in the federal Interior & Environment spending bill for Fiscal Year 2012. These cuts could have a significant negative impact on wildlife management in Arizona. The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on this measure soon, possibly in the next several days.
Among the programs affected are:
- State Wildlife Grants (SWG). The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program would be hit with a 64 percent funding reduction compared to FY 2011 ($22 million vs. $61.9 million) and a 75 percent reduction compared to the $90 million funded in FY 2010. The SWG program was created by Congress in 2000 to assist states with their voluntary and proactive efforts to protect the more than 12,000 at-risk wildlife species around the U.S. from becoming endangered. SWG is the principal source of funding for implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans (Arizona’s plan was developed in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and conservation partners). In Arizona, SWG dollars are matched with state Heritage funds, and combined, they make it possible to monitor and manage at-risk wildlife populations, manage and restore critical habitats, and prevent further decline of species. Many species, including bald eagles, Sonoran pronghorn, black-footed ferrets, Chiricahua leopard frogs, and many more have benefitted from SWG funding. These funds enable Arizona to be proactive, not reactive, placing conservation measures on the ground to manage species and preclude the need for their federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act). This program would be hit with a 95.2 percent funding reduction compared to FY 2011 ($2.85 million vs. $59.9 million) and a 96.7 percent reduction compared to the $85.3 million funded in FY 2010. The Section 6 funding provides grants to states to participate in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for candidate, proposed and listed species. The program provides funding for species and habitat conservation actions on non-federal land and provides federal funding to meet ESA’s mandate for the federal government to work with the states. Elimination of this funding would make it more difficult for the states to have adequate participation in decisions affecting wildlife conservation and land use policy.
- The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). This program would be hit with a 46.5 percent funding reduction compared to FY 2011 ($20 million vs. $37.4 million) and a 58 percent reduction compared to the $47.6 million funded in FY 2010. NAWCA provides matching grants to organizations and individuals that have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife. Funding through NAWCA has been used by state agencies and partners to both restore and conserve more than 25.9 million acres of wetlands, riparian areas, and upland habitats. Eliminating funding will exacerbate declines of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife dependent on wetlands.
- Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This program would be 100 percent defunded from its FY 2011 level of $3.99 million. The program provides matching grants to support public-private partnerships that promote the long-term conservation of neotropical migratory birds. Elimination of this funding would negatively impact projects that support the wintering grounds of neotropical birds that are found in Arizona. Many of these birds, such as the elegant trogon or blue-throated hummingbird, are seen nowhere else in the United States and draw bird watchers from all over the world to Arizona, enhancing local economies.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has sent a letter to Arizona’s representatives in the U.S. House, expressing concern over negative impacts the cuts will have to Arizona’s wildlife conservation efforts and requesting that the proposed cuts be restored or at least be proportionally funded. These programs are very important to wildlife management in Arizona and for maintaining Arizona’s voice and participation in conservation of wildlife otherwise regulated by federal laws.
Arizona Game and Fish acknowledges that, given the current economic situation, there are no easy solutions, and important programs won’t be immune from reductions to address the budget deficit. State wildlife agency leadership and experience have generated some of Arizona’s most successful and productive wildlife programs. The department is concerned that the drastic and disproportionate funding reductions for the aforementioned programs jeopardize that success story by eliminating state programs and transferring the responsibility for much of Arizona’s wildlife future to already seriously overburdened federal agencies.
If you have an opinion about the proposed cuts, one way or the other, and wish to contact your representative in Congress, contact information for Arizona’s U.S. Congressional representatives can be found at http://www.house.gov/representatives/ orhttps://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml.
For links to fact sheets on the SWG, Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grants, and NAW