While a bright light has been focused on Congress’ recent efforts to pass the economic stimulus package, another critical financial debate is waiting in the wings on Capitol Hill — one that’s crucially important to sustaining clean air and water, lands, oceans, wildlife, and public health.
That debate centers on the annual budget process to authorize the funding needed for federal agencies to do their jobs. It’s in this annual appropriations debate that Congress will set aside the money needed to manage all our public lands. It is through these appropriations that Congress can help ensure the long-term health of our national forests, wildlife refuges, parks, scenic rivers, trails, historic sites and Bureau of Land Management conservation lands. The budget process also funds agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees our air and water quality and public health, and the Departments of Energy and Transportation, which make important decisions about our energy future. In short, these funding decisions have a huge impact — and they bear close scrutiny.
To help illuminate the process, representatives of more than 25 conservation organizations have prepared a “Green Budget” that makes a case for strengthening funding for the environmental programs that fund lands and wildlife, energy, transportation, air, water, public health, and oceans.
In a Feb. 18 news conference announcing the groups’ priorities, Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows told reporters that many federal environmental programs “have been systematically marginalized and ignored over the past eight years, and we must begin to restore adequate funding to them through the regular appropriations process.”
Meadows cited the “unique opportunity” for a new administration and Congress “to provide jobs and restore economic vitality to many areas in need, while also beginning to address the impacts of global warming.” Investing in these programs “provides our country with long-term, lasting benefits,” he noted.