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US House Slashes Funding for Wildlife Protection

Key Programs Eliminated

(Washington, D.C., February 25, 2011) The House of Representatives eliminated funding for several key wildlife programs and drastically curtailed funding of others as part of a Fiscal Year 2011 funding bill (H.R.1) that passed the House late last week.

“This spending bill contains some of the most anti-wildlife proposals I have ever seen. These destructive funding cuts and policy provisions will certainly harm birds and wildlife as well as undoing conservation efforts that have taken over 50 years to accomplish,” says Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy, the nation’s leading bird conservation organization.Funding for State Wildlife Grants, the nation’s core program to assist states in preventing wildlife from becoming endangered was completely eliminated. The program had previously received $90 million per fiscal year to support strategic conservation investments in every state and territory. The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which provides funding for conservation projects that benefit wetland-associated migratory birds, funded previously at $47.6 million, was also eliminated. Eliminating funding for NAWCA, a program which has a proven track record of success, leveraging over $2 billion in matching funds affecting 20 million acres through the work of more than 4,000 partners, will exacerbate declines of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife dependent on wetlands. It has fostered public and private sector cooperation for migratory bird conservation, flood control, erosion control, and water quality.Birds have been a driving force behind the American conservation movement since its early day when unregulated hunting, the use of toxic pesticides, and the destruction of wetlands threatened our wildlife and wild places. But birds are also big business. A report by The Outdoor Industry Foundation found all outdoor wildlife related recreation activities generate $730 billion annually for the U.S. economy. The report estimated that bird watching and other wildlife viewing contributes $43 billion annually to the economy. An estimated 66 million Americans participate in wildlife viewing, which supports 466,000 jobs. Retail sales of gear average $8.8 billion, trip related expenditures total $8.5 billion, and state and federal tax receipts amount to $2.7 billion.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported similar findings: a $38 billion contribution to the economy from bird and other wildlife watching. One-third of outdoor enthusiasts take at least one bird or other wildlife watching trip per year, and nearly 70% visit forest land to do so. $23.5 billion is spent on equipment such as cameras, binoculars, and clothing each year; $8 billion on trip-related expenses; and $6.7 billion on books, magazines, fees, and memberships.“Cutting programs that have a proven track record of successfully providing important bird conservation like NACWA and State Wildlife grants is penny wise and pound foolish. These are programs that Congress should be improving instead of eliminating.” said Schroeder.

“It is unfortunate that the majority in the House, in confronting the dire fiscal realities facing this nation, appeared to avoid the tough decisions Americans know are needed from non-discretionary sources and instead chose the easier route of cutting vital federal programs that protect endangered birds, protect vital habitat and fund important conservation work across this country. There are certainly many areas in the federal government that deserve a hard look to determine their cost versus benefit, it seems a shame then that the health and abundance of native wildlife is made to bear the brunt of the budget cutting axe,” he said.

4th July 2014