Congressional Budget Will Slash Environmental Funding

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(03/25/1999) -

AMERICAN OCEANS CAMPAIGN DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE OF AMERICA
LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS MINERAL POLICY CENTER
NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY NATIONAL PARKS & CONSERVATION ASSN
PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
U.S. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP

Washington, DC -- Leaders of a dozen national environmental and conservation organizations condemned the budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives tonight; the Senate is expected to approve its version of the budget resolution on Saturday, March 27.

The environmental leaders warn that if enacted, the House-passed budget resolution will slash federal spending on environmental protection, open-space protection, and community livability by more than $1 billion, or 6 percent, in Fiscal Year 2000.

The Senate currently is debating a budget resolution that would make even deeper cuts in natural resources and environmental spending.

The House-passed budget would cut discretionary spending for "function 300," the environment and natural resources budget category, from $23.3 billion in FY1999 to $22.0 billion in FY2000. The Senate bill would cut function 300 to $21.5 billion. The Clinton-Gore Administration budget proposed to increase funding to $23.8 billion in FY 2000.

Proposed budget cuts would come despite increased public interest in protecting the environment and improving the livability of communities among the voting public. For example, last November voters from California to New Jersey approved more than 150 state and local ballot measures to protect, conserve, and improve parks, open space, farmlands, historic resources, watersheds, green ways, wildlife habitats, and other environmental enhancements. Citizen appreciation of natural resources is growing rapidly, with recreational visits to national forests growing from 233 million days in 1980 to 341 million days in 1996.

At the same time, environmental problems continue to threaten the health and well-being of millions of Americans, the environmental leaders warned Congress. For example, drinking water systems serving more than 50 million Americans violate health regulations and standards.

The conservation leaders emphasize that funding to preserve and expand our nation's treasured natural areas is grossly inadequate. Our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and BLM managed special areas have billions of dollars in unmet operations and maintenance needs, they point out. And the backlog of needed acquisitions under the Land and Water Conservation Fund totals more than $10 billion. Following are some of the quotes from CEOs of national environmental and conservation organizations on the budget.

"This budget is an attack on the environment. Starving environmental and conservation programs through budget cuts will hurt our natural resources and public health." -- Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth.

"The budget degrades and shortchanges all that Americans love in the natural world--our heritage of wildlife refuges, parks, forests, lakes, rivers, deserts, scenic vistas, and recreational oases. If any of those who voted for this budget give lip service to the environment on Earth Day, it will be the height of hypocrisy." -- Rodger Schlickeisen, President, Defenders of Wildlife

"This budget is a clear attack on environmental programs. If enacted, it will drain scarce resources for programs that protect public health and it will chronically underfund initiatives to curb sprawl and protect open space." -- Gene Karpinski, Executive Director, U.S. PIRG.

"Our national parks are America's natural and historical legacy, our treasures that we want to pass on to future generations. This budget chooses to ignore this responsibility and add to the mounting toll of decaying historical buildings, unmanaged crowds, and overburdened and broken facilities. Under this budget, by 2004 national parks would be hit with a $575 million cut. That's about half their entire current operating budget." -- Tom Kiernan, President, National Parks and Conservation Association

"People's health, especially that of children and the elderly, will be threatened if this budget is implemented. Harmful levels of toxic chemicals will not be reduced if agencies are hamstrung by a begrudging Congress" -- Robert K. Musil, PhD, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"Today on our public lands there is a growing taxpayer liabilitybecause land managers don't have the resources to hold corporate polluters, like multi-national mining companies, accountable. This budget will only increase the environmental cleanup bill for our children." -- Stephen D'Esposito, President, Mineral Policy Center

"Congress has to stop treating the budget for environmental protection as a pool to be dipped into for tax cuts and other pet projects. Just as this budget has started to regain momentum, Congress seems to want to reverse course. We need this money to clean our air and water and protect parks, forests, and wilderness. Today's vote indicates that when it comes to giving Americans what they really want, this Congress is tone deaf." -- William H. Meadows, President, The Wilderness Society

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270