California's Muir Woods National Monument, which has benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Credit: Selbe B, flickr.
The budget, which further cuts funding for already cash-strapped conservation and natural resource programs, is out of step with everyday Americans who appreciate parks and public lands and see them as critical parts of our economy and our shared history as a nation.
“By proposing more deep cuts to conservation programs over the next decade, the Ryan budget ignores the fact our national parks, forests and wild areas on publicly owned lands provide vital economic benefits and jobs in the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, which employs more than 6 million Americans throughout the U.S.,” said Alan Rowsome, senior government relations director at The Wilderness Society.
Rep. Ryan’s proposed budget would:
- Recommend that Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds pay for federal agencies’ operations backlog rather than their intended purpose--putting offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to work protecting and growing ourpublic lands.
- Open more federal lands and waters to oil and gas development, thus putting vulnerable places at risk;
- Impose further cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, including conservation programs;
- Cut spending on climate change programs across federal agencies and eliminate funding for the Clean Technology and Strategic Climate Funds at time when climate change impacts are becoming more and more pronounced.
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul”
The Ryan budget comes just weeks after President Barack Obama sent his own proposal to Congress, and represents a stark departure from that plan. The president’s budget included a significant increase to chronically under-funded conservation and natural resources programs, an improved method to pay for fighting severe wildfires, a program to help prepare for climate change and full, dedicated funding for the LWCF.
The wide gulf between President Obama and Rep. Ryan’s LWCF plans is particularly striking. According to Rowsome, Ryan’s plan constitutes “a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ scenario.”
“All federal spending on environmental, conservation and renewable energy programs amounts to barely one percent of the federal budget,” said Rowsome. “Rather than take dollars from popular and wildly successful conservation programs, the Ryan budget should be increasing funding for the land management agencies so they can better steward these important national treasures.”
Continuing woes for conservation funding
Past budgets from Rep. Ryan have been decried as proposals to sell off public lands, amid a fiscal environment that has seen federal funding for environmental, conservation and renewable energy programs suffer repeated budget cuts. Currently, those programs are allotted about 1 percent of the federal budget despite the massive economic importance and broad popularity of national parks and other protected areas.
In March, a report titled “Green Investments” highlighted the need for lawmakers to break out of this pattern and appropriately fund programs that safeguard America’s natural resources and the agencies that oversee them. Hopefully, Congress will see fit to restore order in the years ahead.