Congress aiming to cut conservation and harm wildlands

Greater sage-grouse.

Credit: Gary O. Grimm, flickr.

Congress has shortchanged conservation for years, repeatedly cutting essential funding for practically every agency that protects the outdoors and makes them accessible and safe for all Americans.

This year, rather than funding conservation at the levels recommended by the administration, Congress has again proposed even deeper cuts to core Department of the Interior, Agriculture and EPA programs that protect our air, land, water and wildlife. These cuts would strip land management agencies of the vital resources they need to make investments in communities, conservation, renewable energy, and critical infrastructure upgrades to meet the American people’s growing desire for recreation on public lands. The cuts also fail to confront the growing challenge of climate change.

Beyond the abysmal funding levels and cuts to important programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress has gone even further and attached dozens of extraneous measures to must-pass funding legislation which would block the administration’s environmental priorities and undermine bedrock environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Here are just a few of those damaging provisions:

  • Blocks fracking rule: The Bureau of Land Management recently finalized measures to make fracking on public lands safer and provide an even playing field across different states in the West. Congress is trying to stop the BLM from carrying out its obligation to best manage our public lands and the resources they contain.
  • Hunting, fishing and recreational shooting: Language in the House bill would substantially complicate the overall implementation of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on public lands.
  • Sage-grouse; Delaying Endangered Species listing decision: The House bill undercuts the Endangered Species Act by limiting the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to use the best available science to protect a number of important species, especially the greater sage-grouse. This would create uncertainty and undermine the unprecedented collaborative efforts conserve sagebrush habitat.
  • Sage-grouse; funding Prohibition: An amendment offered to the House bill would block any funds for implementation of the habitat conservation plans that were collaboratively developed to conserve the greater sage-grouse.
  • Prohibits royalty rate adjustments for oil, gas, and coal: The Department of Interior is looking at ways to modernize and update the rates that private industry pays for extracting resources from our public lands. However, some in Congress don’t want industry to pay a fair rate for the use of public lands. This would put recreation and conservation on unequal ground with the extractive uses for public lands and give industry an advantage over other uses.