Efforts to slash Interior spending will cause boomerang effect

Jul 7, 2011

Budget can’t be balanced on the backs of America’s natural resources


The Wilderness Society today warned the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee of the dangerous side-effects of plans to slash Department of Interior funding to lows not seen in years.

“House leadership has made a big show of enacting draconian cuts to agencies and programs that fund conservation and environmental protection – essentially declaring an open season on our open spaces,” said The Wilderness Society’s president, William H. Meadows. “By focusing its ire on the ‘federal’ government, though, House leaders either missed or purposefully chose to ignore the impact their short-sighted thinking would have on jobs and economies in their own states.”

Meadows explained that cuts proposed at today’s subcommittee hearing will be bad news for communities across the country.

“What this means is that the cuts will soon decimate not just national and state parks, refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands, but also local businesses and the countless jobs built around the recreation and tourism industries. In short, the effort to turn Uncle Sam into the bogeyman is now becoming a boomerang slicing its way through their back yards.”

A recent Interior department report noted that one program alone – the Land and Water Conservation Fund – spent $214 million on acquiring land in 2010 … generating $442 million of economic activity including 3,000 jobs.  As the House cuts back LWCF by historic levels in the upcoming budget battle, this economic activity and job growth are in peril.

The Idaho Statesman picked up on that story quickly and that’s just one of the programs House leadership is targeting. The Washington Post explored the unintended consequences angle in a piece illustrating how EPA budget cuts put states in a bind.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ripped the GOP’s plan for massive cuts in The Hill’s energy and environment blog on Wednesday. “It’s not a good day for conservation,” he said. “It is a very painful day for conservation.”

E&E, meanwhile, ran a story highlighting a letter delivered to Vice President Joe Biden from more than 400 businesses, conservation and sportsmen’s groups – a letter that makes it clear that House leadership won’t be able to balance the budget by stampeding over our wild lands and natural resources.

Meadows noted that if Republican leadership is successful, it will cut investments in conservation spending to levels not seen in nearly 10 years.

“This has the potential to lead to widespread closings of national and state parks, big hits to all the businesses and people who rely on them, the loss of protection for clean water and air, and less habitat for wildlife,” he said.

It won’t balance the budget, either.

“You can’t balance the federal budget on the backs of conservation, preservation and recreation,” Meadows said. “Investments in our natural resources comprise roughly 1 percent of the federal budget yet provide a return on investment that far exceeds the cost to the taxpayer. Just ask anyone who has ever enjoyed our great American wilderness, or benefitted from the clean air and water those lands provide, or the local economies they support.”

Alan Rowsome