Conservation funding vital to U.S. economy

Interior Secretary Jewell calls for NAWCA funding
As part of the compromise to reopen the federal government, a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers is attempting to reconcile each house’s passed budget by Dec. 13. A budget for Fiscal Year 2014 would ensure there won’t be another government funding crisis in the middle of January – but these negotiations also affect conservation work.

As part of sequestration, conservation programs were cut by the mandated 5.1 percent and have now been cut an additional 2.1 percent because a budget has not been passed. The House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee proposed zeroing out several long-standing, successful and vital grant programs in FY14, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), state wildlife grants and others. 

Total funding for natural resources is less than 1 percent of the federal budget, but its on-the-ground impact is much more significant. This very modest investment provides 60 percent of the direct funding for conservation. The elimination of programs such as NAWCA would have a drastically negative effect on DU’s ability to complete conservation and restoration work on waterfowl habitat.

Outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation and historic preservation provide a minimum $1.7 trillion in economic impact in the United States, as well as more than $200 million in federal, state and local tax revenue. These industries also support 12.8 million jobs that can’t be exported.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell acknowledged the importance of these programs when she called for the full funding of NAWCA and LWCF during her speech at the National Press Club on Oct. 31.

Help DU by supporting the strongest possible funding levels for conservation, recreation and preservation programs in the ongoing budget negotiations. Call, email or send a message through social media to your legislators and ask them not to hurt the U.S. economy by making shortsighted cuts to conservation programs.