U.S. House ends drought on earth-friendly funding

Feb 25, 2009

WASHINGTON – Thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives today passing the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, the end is in sight for the eight-year-old dust bowl of funding for a host of programs that will nourish our public lands and natural resources. The House accomplished a wide range of objectives that include creating green jobs, investing in green energy, restoring degraded ecoystems, protecting endangered species preserving natural resources, and slowing the increase of global warming.

“The bill is like water on the desert after many years of budget drought,” said David Moulton, The Wilderness Society’s director of climate change and conservation funding. “We applaud Congress for increasing the funding for our nation’s lands, waters, and natural resources. If we do not protect our natural resources, they will no longer be able to protect us from floods, water shortages and air pollution.”

The bill that passed the House today heads to the Senate 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 over 40 million visitors annually, infuse $1.7 billion to local economies nationwide, and generate 27,000 private sector jobs. With an increase of $28.7million over last year’s enacted levels, this much 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.

Moulton also praised the House of Representatives for two other measures included in the appropriations bill. The first creates funding for a National Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center and directs the Secretary of the Interior to coordinate with other agencies in developing a national strategy to assist the survival of wildlife and ecosystems in the face of global warming. The second would allow the easy withdrawal of last minute regulations put forward by the previous administration that undermine the Endangered Species Act and protections for the polar bear.

“This bill recognizes that healthy communities depend on a healthy landscape, and makes the investments needed to create economic opportunity and address the threat of global warming,” Moulton said.