House Interior Department appropriations bill takes an axe to conservation programs

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Washington, D.C. — Crucial programs that protect wildlife and habitat were slashed today in a bill approved by the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations subcommittee. While the bill’s overall funding is reduced by 4 percent, certain programs were singled out for the worst cuts in the bill.  The subcommittee bill cuts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by more than 20 percent and the land acquisition program under the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 80 percent below the FY 2012 enacted levels. The cut to the Fish and Wildlife Service budget includes a 30 percent reduction in the program that protects new plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, severely restricting efforts to protect more than 250 candidate species, many of which have awaited listing protection for years. The bill also contains numerous extreme anti-conservation policy riders long sought by industry and extreme conservatives alike, including language that would force a decision on the delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming, a state that is already planning extensive wolf killing programs once the species is delisted.

Below is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President of the Defenders of Wildlife.

“Paying to conserve something now is much cheaper than paying to restore it later. This is the simple equation that many members of Congress just don’t seem to understand. The funding cuts passed today will inflict serious damage in many critical areas of our natural heritage, including the air we breathe, the water we drink and our nation’s wildlife. Reversing that damage will be a lengthy and costly process.

“In a replay of last year, the House bill singles out the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our nation’s premier wildlife conservation agency, for some of the most punishing cuts, far beyond what may be needed in the name of deficit reduction. These cuts not only harm our precious wildlife refuges, endangered plants and animals, and migratory birds, but given that wildlife associated recreation is a $122 billion a year industry, they will harm also our nation’s economy, especially local communities that benefit most from wildlife-based ecotourism dollars.

“The bill also has members of Congress unwisely playing scientist once again – it is chock-full of policy riders dictating scientific outcomes despite what the data may show.  For example, the bill forces the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a final rule to remove wolves in Wyoming from the endangered species list, short-circuiting the scientific process already underway to determine if delisting is a wise move. Severely imperiled bighorn sheep are another target—the bill would forbid agencies from carrying out crucial protections needed to save the species that have been underway for several years.  The bill also includes a number of riders that will undermine sound management on hundreds of millions of acres of our nation’s public lands and national forests, in part by cutting the public out from important decisions about how our public resources are managed.

“These are policy changes industry and conservatives alike have sought for years and the current state of the economy is only the latest excuse for pursuing their extreme agenda. It is yet another example of Congress kowtowing to the special interests and enacting shortsighted policies that leave the next generation holding the bill.”

Contact: William Lutz 202-772-0269

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org

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