Budget agreement paves the way for responsive, results-focused conservation funding as Senate and House appropriations committees commence negotiations
Following last night’s announcement by House and Senate leaders of a successfully negotiated budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, sportsmen are uniting to advocate for strong funding for conservation initiatives as the details of the budget agreement are resolved.
If approved by Congress, the bicameral budget sets a top-line funding level of $1.012 trillion for federal agencies through the fall of 2014 and a top-line funding level of $1.014 trillion through fall of 2015. It also would represent a significant step toward avoiding another federal shutdown and would curb steep, sequestration-based cuts currently in place.
“Progress has been made by Congress in resolving the budget crisis, and sportsmen applaud news of this successful agreement,” said Mike Nussman, president/CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “Another federal shutdown must be avoided so that all sectors of our economy – including the nation’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy – can prosper.”
While applauding the bipartisan agreement, sportsmen stressed that funding for critical conservation programs is far from secure and urged Congress to act swiftly to allocate funds for measures important to natural resources management, fish and wildlife conservation and public opportunities to hunt, fish and recreate.
“We commend congressional leaders for brokering a budget compromise in the name of our nation’s economic security,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh, “but the future of American conservation and natural resources management still hangs in the balance.
“Right now, House and Senate appropriations committees are determining individual funding levels for a broad suite of federal programs,” Fosburgh continued. “Conservation funding must be prioritized in these negotiations. Sportsmen are united in supporting a $30 billion allocation for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014.”
Outdoor recreation, including hunting and angling, is a major economic driver in America. This sector of the economy is responsible for $646 billion in direct consumer spending each year, supports more than 6.1 million jobs and sustains rural communities across the nation. Yet lack of funding certainty from year to year has had an enormous negative impact on the ability of agencies to fulfill their conservation missions, jeopardizing those economic benefits, jobs and an industry that relies on sound natural resources management.
“We all agree that the nation has to get its fiscal house in order, and the budget deal is a first step,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall. “Programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund and state wildlife grants must have adequate funding, so we urge Congress to recognize the outdoor economy as the major economic driver it is. Where else can you invest $30 billion and get a $646 billion return on that investment?”
The budget could move to the House floor for a vote as early as tomorrow, with a Senate vote taking place soon thereafter. The House is scheduled to depart for its holiday recess on Friday, and the Senate is set to adjourn next week.
“Congress can give Americans an early Christmas present by passing the budget,” concluded Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute, “and then passing an appropriations bill that reestablishes America’s century-old commitment to conservation.”
Logo courtesy Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership