The Wilderness Society welcomed several items in President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget, including a better federal funding mechanism for combatting severe wildfires, more funds to address the impacts of climate change and a significant increase to chronically under-funded conservation and natural resources programs.
“All federal spending on environmental, conservation and renewable energy programs add up to barely one percent of the budget,” says Alan Rowsome, Senior Government Relations Director for Lands at The Wilderness Society. “Even this small investment in these programs has been repeatedly cut for several years, and we are pleased to see that the President understands the need for greater investment in conservation to return these programs to the level of funding they deserve to accomplish their important missions. Our public lands, including national parks, forests, and wild areas, provide clean air, clean water and access to world-class outdoor recreation opportunities. They also contribute significantly to our nation’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy. That’s why many conservation programs across the U.S. have strong, bipartisan support, and we look forward to working with the President and Congress on restoring investments in these areas.”
The Wilderness Society supports several items in the President’s 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. Recent spikes in fire suppression spending have been paid for at the expense of other critical forest programs aimed at reducing wildfire risks and have also robbed funding from important programs at other agencies. Agencies that manage wildfires need stable budgets that are not subject to reallocation.
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. These programs have faced chronic underfunding which is having significant impacts on the ground, and in the 50th anniversary year of both the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, reinvestments in these programs are essential to strengthen our environment, communities and our economy. 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, marking an important commitment to this cornerstone conservation program.
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. Initiatives to provide for better planning and new methods to offset unavoidable impacts are crucial to ensuring public lands help us reduce emissions and enhance ecosystem resilience. In addition, the President’s budget does away with unnecessary tax breaks for fossil fuels, putting renewable and fossil energy on a more level playing field.
Yesterday, The Wilderness Society along with other national groups across the U.S., urged the President and Congress to end years of budget cuts to conservation and natural resource programs in a new report called “Green Investments.” Citing damage to the environment, the economy and drinking water supplies, the report underscores the importance of reinvesting in conservation programs for Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond.
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it’s important to remember that careful stewardship of our public lands provides many benefits,” says Rowsome. “It ensures that we preserve our natural heritage, move toward a renewable energy future and support jobs in the outdoor recreation economy that cannot be exported.”
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