Environmental Community's “Green Budget” Outlines Agency Funding Needed to Sustain Environmental Programs

Feb 18, 2009

Washington, D.C.Representatives of national conservation organizations today released the annual “Green Budget” for FY 2010, a document that details the federal agency funding the groups say is needed to sustain clean air and water, lands, oceans and wildlife over the long term — an increasingly urgent priority in an era of global warming. “Many of these 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,” said Bill Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society, who hosted a news conference to unveil the Green Budget. The full document, which was produced with input from more than 25 national conservation groups, is available at www.wilderness.org or www.saveourenvironment.org.

Meadows noted that “funding for individual land-management programs is low, and staff cuts have made it increasingly difficult for the agencies to achieve their mission on the ground. The new administration has a unique opportunity in the FY 2010 budget to provide jobs and restore economic vitality to many areas in need, while also beginning to address the impacts of global warming. Our natural resources provide economic growth in perpetuity, and investing in them provides our country with long-term, lasting benefits.”

That sentiment was echoed by Mary Beth Beetham, Director of Legislative Affairs for Defenders of Wildlife. “America’s public lands and wildlife are not only anchors for healthy natural systems, they are also important to our economy, helping to support at least 6.5 million jobs across the nation,” she noted. “The programs that support these vital resources are chronically under-funded, but smart investments will pay returns many times over the years to come. And the value of preserving our natural heritage is immeasurable.”

Appropriating adequate funds for agency programs to thrive in the long-term is critical, even with the recent passage of an economic recovery package that includes significant funding for environmental programs, stressed Heather Taylor-Miesle, energy consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The economic recovery package made smart investments that will repower America with clean energy and create new jobs quickly. Congress can make good on this down payment with a budget that keeps us on a path to a clean energy economy. By providing the necessary funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency, we can help end our dependence on oil and ensure that America has the tools to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Building on that theme, Colin Peppard, Federal Transportation Program Manager for Friends of the Earth, noted the importance of restoring funding for critical federal transportation programs that help, rather than harm, the environment. “Over the past several years, many innovative transportation programs that protect our environment and reduce pollution have been underfunded, reducing their effectiveness, and increasing the environmental impacts of transportation,” Peppard said. “Our transportation budget recommendations ensure we are once again promoting clean air and water, reducing oil use and global warming, and protecting wildlife and open space.”

One of the agencies that has suffered severe funding cuts over the past eight years is the Environmental Protection Agency, which saw a $1.8 billion decrease in inflation-adjusted funding during the Bush Administration. The Green Budget makes a forceful case for reversing this trend. "Nothing is more vital to the health and well-being of our communities than clean water and clean air, said Peter Raabe, Policy Director for Budget and Appropriations at American Rivers. “With global warming presenting new challenges to our water, air and public health, we must increase our investments to protect communities from pollution, boost quality of life, and chart a new path to a green economy."

Long-term funding also is critically important to the health of America’s oceans and coasts, said Roberta Elias, Senior Program Officer for Marine and Fisheries Policy at the World Wildlife Fund. “Our oceans and coasts are more than a place where people visit. They generate a $117 billion in economic revenues each year, provide us with food and recreation, and are home to fish and marine wildlife. On top of that, oceans play a critical role in regulating our climate. Unfortunately, ocean health, fisheries sustainability, and marine biodiversity face a growing list of pressures including poorly planned development, damaging fishing levels and practices, pollution of all kinds, as well as global warming and ocean acidification. Putting ocean conservation and management on hold is no longer an option. It is time that we properly invest in the very marine ecosystems and resources — at home and around the world — that we depend on to provide basic ecological functions, to support economies and coastal communities, and to feed a hungry planet.”

Audio to the complete teleconference is available here.

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