To create jobs and support local communities, the federal budget must prudently increase funding for parks, wildlife refuges and forests
Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal issued today is yet another attempt to further reduce funding for important conservation and natural resource programs.
“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.,” says Alan Rowsome, Senior Government Relations Director at The Wilderness Society.
The Wilderness Society opposes several specific parts of Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal:
- The budget would cut funding for conservation programs in the coming years.
- By opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas development, the Ryan budget puts vulnerable wild lands at risk.
- It would rescind Department of Energy loan guarantees for renewable energy, which would deliver a short-sighted and needless blow to renewable energy sources that promote America’s energy independence.
- The Ryan budget cuts spending on climate change programs across federal agencies and eliminates all funding for the Clean Technology and Strategic Climate Funds at a time when climate change impacts are becoming more and more pronounced.
“Chronic underfunding has exacerbated the backlog of operations needs, which means fewer Americans will be able to enjoy their public lands and have the experience they have come to expect,” says Rowsome. “The Ryan budget proposes a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ scenario by specifically recommending that LWCF dollars be used for operations and backlog of the federal agencies rather than their intended purposes. This despite the fact that LWCF projects often reduce maintenance costs while at the same time provide access to outdoor recreation opportunities and funding for battlefields, state and local parks, and our iconic National Parks.
“All federal spending on environmental, conservation and renewable energy programs amounts to barely one percent of the federal budget. 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.”
By contrast, The Wilderness Society supports several items in the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget that restore much-needed funding for conservation programs:
An emergency funding mechanism for combatting severe, destructive wildfires. The President’s budget includes a bipartisan congressional recommendation to fund suppression of the most severe wildfires the way we fund all other natural disasters.
A fund to address problems stemming from climate change. The President also included a $1 billion climate change resiliency fund to mitigate the damaging impacts of climate change on our communities and our economy. Additional funding for “green infrastructure” including wilderness, habitat connectivity and public lands are some of the most cost-effective investments that can be made to address resiliency.
More conservation investment. The President’s budget also includes $12 billion to the Department of Interior and $1.6 billion to the National Forest System which helps return conservation and natural resources programs to the levels they deserve. The 2015 President’s budget provides full funding at $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund from oil and gas industry fees.
Smart steps toward a clean energy future. The Wilderness Society supports the President's budget request for funding for renewable energy development on public lands. We need renewable energy in large measure to ensure a more sustainable energy economy, and large-scale renewable energy development on our public lands will play a significant role. The funds in the President's budget are essential to making sure that our wildest lands are not damaged by development, which instead can be guided towards areas of lower conflict.
A report coauthored with more than two dozen other conservation organizations illustrates the importance of reinvesting in these conservation programs for Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond. The report, “Green Investments,” outlines dozens of examples of programs that have been shortchanged in recent years.
Report: “Green Investments: Budget Cut Impacts to Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Need for Reinvestments in FY15.” Link: http://wilderness.org/resource/green-investments-2014