Interior Appropriations bill would gut critical conservation programs

Aug 2, 2013

U.S. Capitol Building

The White House
Communities across the country would suffer severely under House legislation

Communities across the country would suffer severely under House legislation

Congress adjourned today without the House Appropriations Committee passing one of the most environmentally disastrous funding bills in recent memory.  The bill would mandate some of the deepest cuts to conservation programs that have ever been proposed by Congress, eliminating dozens of programs and funding many more at levels not seen in decades.  This ill-fated legislation has an uncertain future when Congress returns in September, but its impacts would be deeply felt and far-reaching.

“This bill would be devastating for our public lands and natural resources, and would hurt local economies across the country,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations for lands at The Wilderness Society. “This is a misguided attempt to balance the federal budget on the backs of programs that not only contribute enormous economic returns both locally and nationally, but which also make up barely over one percent of the federal budget.”

Some of the many disastrous provisions in this bill would:

  • Prohibit the Forest Service from considering wilderness additions in forest plan revisions,
  • Prohibit the designation or expansion of wildlife refuges without the consent of Congress,
  • Prevent public input by exempting certain activities from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),
  • Nearly end the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund by providing a paltry $20 million for a program that is intended to receive $900 million annually from offshore drilling fees,
  • Shortchange efforts to responsibly permit new wind, solar and geothermal projects on public lands,
  • Allow unrestricted ORV use on National Forest System lands, and
  • Preclude the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

The House Interior Appropriations bill is not aligned with what the American people want. In a recent Colorado College poll, 74 percent of people polled believed that America’s “national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas help attract high quality employers and good jobs to their state.”  Gutting critical funding for conservation programs would put these places at risk.

The Wilderness Society adamantly opposes this out-of-touch legislation and urges the House not to take it to the floor for a final vote this fall.  Additionally, we will work with the Senate and the White House to ensure that critical conservation programs are funded at adequate levels next year.

Chase Huntley
(202) 429-7431