Losing Our Heritage: Budget Cut Impacts and Our Environment

Forsythe NWR, after Superstorm Sandy

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Massive budget cuts will soon start shuttering visitor centers, closing trails, and furloughing park rangers in wild places across the nation.

Depending on when you read this, these cuts might already be in effect. Starting March 1, these cuts – known as “sequestration” – will be affecting every federal agency.

These indiscriminate cuts aren’t just going to hit National Parks (although those will be some of the most visible to American families on vacation). They are also going to undermine efforts to prevent wildfires in National Forests, stall attempts to halt the spread of a bat-killing fungus, and hamstring law enforcement officials that are cracking down on smuggling rings.

A new report from nearly 30 environmental groups, including The Wilderness Society, outlines some of the specific effects of sequestration. The report has been taken to Capitol Hill, and given to Members of Congress and their staffs so that they can see exactly what the cuts will mean.

Conservation programs make up a tiny portion of the federal budget – only 1.26%. Even if all of them were completely eliminated, it wouldn’t make the smallest dent in the budget deficit. However, many of the programs have benefits that wildly outweigh their costs.

  • Clean Air and Clean Water rules that saved Americans between $21-$168 billion thanks to health benefits.
  • $1.6 trillion in ecosystem services – like the water supplies for 66 million Americans that come from National Forests.
  • The  $646 billion spent for  outdoor recreation that generates $1.6 trillion in total economic activity and 12 million U.S. jobs.

If Congress is serious about saving money, the report highlights more than $760 billion in potential savings. Many of these offsets are outdated and unnecessary tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry – which is pretty well established at this point.

A choice between subsidizing climate-change-causing, land-destroying fossil fuels and keeping America’s parks open, forests healthy, and air and water clean shouldn’t be a choice at all.

Read the report – Losing Our Heritage: Budget Cut Impacts and the Environment