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_Editor’s Note: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Daniel M. Ashe is the person ultimately responsible for the welfare of the nation’s fish and wildlife and its habitat. This enormous duty puts Ashe in a perfect position to realize how much damage the threatened budget cuts to federal conservation programs would inflict on those priceless resources–and, as a lifelong hunter and fisherman, he also understands how much those cuts would harm our sports and their future.

This is his response to Conservation Editor Bob Marshall’s recent column about the specific losses those potential cuts would cause, and explains why sportsmen must exclude conservation programs in any calls for budget reductions._

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**by Dan Ashe **

Like all duck hunters, I know that, oftentimes, the worse the weather, the better the hunting. I look at our current conservation climate in much the same way.

Although our nation is going through some rough economic weather right now, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are still enormous needs – and opportunities – for fish and wildlife conservation.

I understand and respect hunters, anglers, and shooters who believe that in the current budget climate, conservation programs should share in any cuts. This community has always put what is right ahead of what is easy, and I believe the reluctant support some may give for budget reductions comes from genuine patriotism.

But we should recognize that America has always found a way to enrich her conservation legacy despite difficult times. During the Civil War, President Lincoln inked a land deal for what later became Yosemite National Park. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era, hunters supported landmark legislation that created the Federal Duck Stamp and the Wildlife Restoration Act, contributing to the establishment of 142 wildlife refuges across the nation in that decade alone.

Now, the legacy of a century of conservation – indeed the future of the North American model of wildlife conservation – is threatened by the prospect of draconian cuts to conservation programs. These programs, though only a sliver of a percentage of the federal budget and largely inconsequential for deficit reduction, have been disproportionately singled out by some in Congress and their supporters.

This is not deficit reduction. These are policy and political objectives dressed-up as deficit reduction by those who seek to get those pesky fish and wildlife agencies – federal and state – out of the way of development. Never mind that America’s outdoor recreation economy generates 8.4 million, non-exportable U.S. jobs, most in rural areas, generating over $100 billion annually in federal, state and local taxes.

We recognize that we are stewards of taxpayer dollars, but I believe your state and federal conservation agencies have a demonstrated record of getting the most out of every dollar we do receive.

I urge everyone who cares about wildlife conservation and the future of hunting and fishing in America to stand up for our way of life. Demand that we live up to the courage and vision of our predecessors by holding the line on conservation funding. Participate in Ducks Unlimited’s “Double Down for Ducks” campaign and purchase two Federal Ducks Stamps instead of one. Most of all, get out on the landscape with your kids and grandkids, and think about the kind of world we should leave to them. It takes investment, and now is not the time to cut back on conservation spending.

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