Cuts Looming for Federal Conservation Programs

--Chad Love

If you think the looming budget battle isn't going to affect hunting and fishing in fundamental ways, you're wrong. Ducks Unlimited is opposing plans to make make massive cuts to federal conservation programs.

From a release on the DU website:
_Ducks Unlimited, along with other conservation organizations, is opposing proposed spending cuts in conservation programs released this week by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The cuts would affect wetlands conservation to the tune of nearly $2 billion, including the loss of $47 million in funding for North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants. The proposed cuts would eliminate all NAWCA funding and also eliminate the match for a total loss of $200 million in habitat work.

"The cuts being proposed could imperil waterfowl populations and the future of the waterfowl hunting tradition in America," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "What's being proposed by the House Appropriations Committee will cripple conservation efforts as we know them," Hall said. "Elimination of NAWCA, an 81% reduction of acquisition for refuges and seriously reducing many other programs so vital to our mission are things DU strongly opposes."
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_Hall said DU is especially concerned about specific areas of the cuts, all of which will adversely affect waterfowl hunters and other conservationists:

1. NAWCA grants˜NAWCA is the primary source of funding for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and has generated more than $3 billion in habitat across North America during the past 20 years. NAWCA grants, along with significant matching funds from the private sector, have helped conserve more than 20 million acres of habitat in North America. These are acres critical to waterfowl, water, conservation and people.

2. The budget actions would also prohibit much needed efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections to important shallow wetlands, including those in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and South Dakota, also known as America's "Duck Factory" because of its importance to breeding waterfowl.

3. Funds for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land acquisitions in the Prairie Pothole Region for waterfowl conservation.

4. State Wildlife Grants that provide more than $90 million to conserve wildlife habitat.

The NAWCA grants are especially valuable, Hall said, as evidenced by the president's budget recommendations that were released today in which the administration has requested increasing NAWCA funds.

"If these cuts and actions take place," Hall said, "waterfowl, waterfowl hunters and wetlands conservation would lose in a big way. In short, these actions would adversely affect all of us who care about, and have funded, wetlands and waterfowl conservation. We should remember, conservation in America pays for itself through the economic return from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts."_

Thoughts? Reaction? What happens in Washington over the next few months will have a direct and far-reaching impact on the future of hunting, fishing and conservation efforts. Have you contacted your elected officials to give them your views? It might be a good idea...