President’s budget a good start to address conservation program cuts

Visitors at Grand Canyon National Park, which has received money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

Credit: flickr, Michael Quinn (Grand Canyon NPS).

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 represents a step toward restoring funding to conservation programs, the importance of which was laid out in a recent report from The Wilderness Society and partner groups.

The president’s budget, sent to Congress on March 4, contains a significant increase to chronically under-funded conservation and natural resources programs, an improved method to pay for fighting severe wildfires, a program to help prepare for climate change and full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to protect public lands.

“All federal spending on environmental, conservation and renewable energy programs add up to barely one percent of the budget,” said 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.”

On March 3, a report titled “Green Investments” had highlighted the need for lawmakers to appropriately fund programs that safeguard America’s natural resources and the agencies that oversee them. This is a good start.

Some of the items in the president’s budget:

  • Fighting severe wildfires. A stable way to pay for fighting severe wildfires the same way we fund programs to address other natural disasters, without robbing other critical forest initiatives.
  • Addressing climate change. As President Obama indicated in February, a $1 billion climate change resiliency fund will help agencies research the impacts of climate change and assist communities in preparing for them.
  • Investing in conservation. Billions of dollars will be put toward returning conservation and natural resources programs to the previous levels. This includes full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), hewing to a 50-year-old promise to reinvest in natural resources using royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling.
  • Smart steps toward a clean energy future. The budget contains a request to fund renewable energy development on public lands. Better planning will be essential to making sure that our wildest lands are not damaged by such development, which should be guided toward less vulnerable areas.