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Policy News: Vol. 3, Issue 8

Top stories for Mar. 1, 2011

Conservation Pays

Dale Hall op-ed

The Atlanta Journal Constitution published an op-ed piece by DU CEO Dale Hall commenting on proposed spending cuts in conservation programs recently released by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The cuts would affect wetlands conservation to the tune of nearly $2 billion. (photo by Brent Gale)
An op-ed piece by DU CEO Dale Hall, which appeared in the Feb. 22 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution
The Congress and Administration began in earnest their jousting over the budget last week when the president submitted his fiscal year 2012 proposal and the House of Representatives debated HR1, the bill to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The debates surrounding these two actions will likely define the approach that will be used to reduce the massive budget deficit that all agree is crippling America's economic recovery. At Ducks Unlimited, we strongly urge budget cutting efforts that actually work to reduce the deficit. We do, however, believe that won't happen through political rhetoric, but rather through legitimate analysis of the costs and benefits of all programs.

I am extremely disappointed with the approach taken in HR1 to eliminate conservation programs, such as the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants, that have proven successful at every level of analysis, including the amount of money returned to the federal treasury through taxes each year. For every federal dollar invested through this program, $3-$4 dollars of non-federal monies are secured as matching funds. This program alone has protected and conserved more than 25 million acres of essential habitat for migratory birds and also serves hundreds of non-game species. In addition, every year hunters, shooters, anglers and boaters pay special federal taxes that are returned to the federal treasury for specific conservation use. That amounts to about $1 billion each year going directly to the state fish and wildlife agencies to manage and conserve fish and wildlife in each of the states. Further, nearly $2 billion each year is secured through the sale of licenses to hunt and fish. Simply stated, the state fish and wildlife agencies could not exist without these two sources of funding, both voluntarily paid from the private sector.

Hunting and fishing is about an $80 billion per year industry. Billions of dollars per year – a net gain for the federal treasury - are returned through direct taxes paid by those who work in that industry: manufacturers, guides, outfitters, the hospitality sector, retail, and others who support getting hunters and anglers into the field. The father of modern conservation, Aldo Leopold wrote about the importance of the citizen conservationist nearly a century ago. Since that time, the cost of conservation has been freely carried on the shoulders of hunters and anglers. But the federal government needs to do its part.

The government's contribution to conservation each year is less than $5 billion. Yes, a fair amount more is appropriated to carry out laws and regulations to keep things from getting worse, but in the effort to improve and advance conservation, the federal government is not the leader in the funding of those efforts. The states and private conservationists are the leaders. For what federal taxpayers receive in return for their investment, and the small amount the government provides in partnership, these programs should be upheld.

Finding ways to reduce the massive federal deficit simply must be done. But in doing so, let's make sure to support those federal investments that pay for themselves several times over and be critical of those that are truly wasteful. Conservation has always, and continues to, pay for itself. Congress and the Administration should approach the budget challenge with facts and analyses, not a meat cleaver.

DU works to fund future MS Conservation Efforts


DU Regional Biologist Tim Willis joined state agencies and other conservation groups at the Mississippi Conservation Funding Coalition meeting in Jackson, Miss., to discuss options for creating a dedicated source of state funding for Mississippi conservation.
Recently, DU Regional Biologist Tim Willis met with members of the Mississippi Conservation Funding Coalition in Jackson, Miss., to discuss options for creating a dedicated source of state funding for Mississippi conservation. 

The purpose of the planning meeting was to develop key goals for the funding initiative and to research funding options, such as dedicated funding mechanisms that have been successfully used in both Arkansas and Missouri

During the Mississippi Conservation Funding Coalition's meeting, four key goals were also identified for the funding initiative: develop a strategy for mission success for funding that includes a public and legislative effort; secure funding for a defined number of years; identify and prioritize lands that are threatened and valued; and develop a public opinion, research-driven communications strategy, plan and program. Reaching these goals will be essential to securing future funding for Mississippi conservation projects. 

Currently, TNC, MDWFP and MS Wildlife Federation are working with the support of other agencies, including DU. The first step is to raise approximately $80,000 to perform a feasibility study and polling. Obtaining the results from these studies and polling will be crucial in determining the next course of action.

After attending the meeting, Willis believed progress toward future conservation funding had been made. "Efforts like this are crucial to conservation success because they bring together various organizations and agencies to focus on a common goal. That cooperation will lead to long-term benefits for Mississippi's wildlife, wild places and people." 

Other organizations in attendance included The Nature Conservancy; the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; the Mississippi Wildlife Federation; the Mississippi Secretary of State's office; Delta Wildlife and The Audubon Society. 

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