President Obama’s budget proposal sets responsible path for conservation

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (Montana) was partly funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Credit: Erin Clark (USFWS), flickr.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 is a step toward restoring funding to conservation programs, the importance of which is detailed in a new report from The Wilderness Society and partner groups.

The president’s budget, sent to Congress on Feb. 2, addresses the damaging “sequester” cuts and restores funding for cash-strapped conservation, natural resources and clean energy programs.

On Jan. 30, a report titled “Green Investments” from The Wilderness Society and other groups highlighted the need for lawmakers to appropriately fund programs that safeguard America’s natural resources and the agencies that oversee them. President Obama’s budget is a good start, recognizing the value of public lands both in their own right and as a boon to America’s formidable outdoor recreation economy.

Some of the items in the president’s budget that The Wilderness Society supports:

  • Investing in conservation. The president’s plan takes important steps to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses a portion of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling to support public lands. His proposal would also restore full and dedicated funding for the program, which has seen its trust fund continually raided by Congress despite a shining 50-year track record.
  • Making public lands stronger & more climate change-resilient. The proposed budget includes increased funding for infrastructure improvements at national monuments, including the recently designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (California), and helping land management agencies prepare for the impacts of climate change and build resiliency.
  • Fighting severe wildfires. President Obama’s budget offers a responsible way to confront the growing problem of wildfire management costs. It would allow us to budget for wildfire suppression while still paying for important conservation initiatives, which include wildfire mitigation (measures to prevent future catastrophic fires). Fires are expected to become ever more intense in the years ahead, in part due to worsening drought and other effects of climate change, making such a fix all the more important.
  • Smart steps toward a clean energy future. The budget recognizes both the importance of renewable energy moving forward and the need to develop it responsibly. It features dedicated funding to ensure that renewable energy is sited in a way that does not negatively impact sensitive wildlands and wildlife habitat.
  • Responsible oil and gas development. President Obama’s plan commits to reforms that will make certain oil and gas development is done safely and responsibly, including increased funding for inspection and rule-enforcement for oil and gas wells on federal lands. The administration has also proposed an increase in royalty rates for oil and gas development, so that our public lands are valued fully and fairly.
  • Encouraging outdoor recreation. The proposed budget includes a significant commitment to address the maintenance backlog in our National Park System, both a fitting salute to the National Park Service’s centennial celebration in 2016 and a good indicator that the administration is serious about connecting Americans with their shared public lands.