WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today made a down payment on his environmental legacy — and his promises to bring change to the White House — by signing the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The legislation passed by the Senate on Tuesday provides a desperately needed funding boost for a variety of programs that will nourish public lands and natural resources.
The funding package invests funds in a variety of objectives that include creating green jobs, investing in green energy, restoring degraded ecosystems, protecting endangered species, preserving natural resources, and slowing the increase of global warming.
“President Obama’s signature on this appropriations bill today replenishes the public savings account in our natural resources,” said David Moulton, The Wilderness Society’s director of climate change and conservation funding. “When we safeguard our public lands, we maintain our best protection against water shortages, air pollution and severe weather disruptions. This president and Congress did the right thing by stopping the slide into ecological bankruptcy the previous administration put us on.”
The bill that Obama signed today makes dramatic improvements over Bush-year budgets that favored resource exploitation rather than conservation. Key highlights include:
- National Wildlife Refuges: Every state in the nation has a wildlife refuge and can benefit from the $462.8 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System in the FY09 funding proposal. Refuges attract more than 40 million visitors annually, infuse $1.7 billion to local economies nationwide, and generate 27,000 private sector jobs. With an increase of $28.7 million over last year’s enacted levels, this much-needed investment will help restore many of the operations and maintenance projects that Refuge System was forced to reduce or eliminate in response to years of funding cuts and shortfalls.
- The National Landscape Conservation System: It is slated to receive $60.8 million, or a $6.6 million increase over last year’s bill. This increase would be critical to restoring some of the needed funding for project backlogs and necessary restoration work. These additional funds would sustain and stabilize invaluable natural and cultural resources in the Conservation System.
- National forests and crumbling roads: Congress has once again identified the need to address roads that are causing environmental harm on our forests by increasing funding for the Legacy Roads and Trails program. Additionally, the National Forest System is receiving an additional $45 million over FY 2008, which should fund important programs like monitoring, fish and wildlife, and recreation.
- Wildfire suppression: Congress has recognized the need to increase funding for fire suppression, which will reduce the need for the Forest Service to transfer money away from other vital programs and services so that it can pay the tab for fighting wildfires.
- National Park Service: Our natural American icons need funding to maintain staff and rebuild crumbling infrastructure and Congress delivered. This focus allows the Park Service to steadily recover, gain efficiencies and refocus itself to effectively meet future challenges. It is crucial that we reinvest and revitalize our national parks by their hundredth birthday.