One Cliff Averted; More Mountains To Climb


Sadly, not the cliff we're facing... 

Grand Canyon, courtesy NPS

Over the past few days, Congress finally came together and reached a broad agreement on tax rates and important tax credits before the consequences of the fiscal cliff came to a head.

Most are aware of the headline that middle-class tax cuts were preserved, but this wasn’t the only issue that was dealt with in this far reaching bill.  

A dozen different tax credits to encourage investments in renewable energy were also extended in this legislation. This includes a renewal of the Wind Production Tax Credit, as well as the tax credit to help make sure homes and businesses are energy efficient. The tax credit for wind is an important win for renewable energy and the wind industry, helping to provide clean, renewable energy rather than drilling and mining our wild lands.

What was not included in the fiscal cliff package, however, was a deal to avert huge cuts to conservation and environmental programs that are part of what is known as “sequestration.” Instead, these cuts were delayed two months to give Congress more time to find a way to avoid them. These cuts could be catastrophic for some of the programs that TWS cares deeply about and would have a profoundly negative effect on conservation efforts all across the United States. National parks, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat will suffer significantly without the necessary funding that is critical to supporting essential programs.  

Without adequate funding, existing projects may have to be put on hold or ended completely. Sequestration means that trails won’t be maintained, roads will close, there will be fewer law enforcement officers, less access to recreation and tourism, environmental education will be limited or be cancelled, scientific research and monitoring will be stopped, and program implementation and management will become even more difficult. In addition, the ability of our nation to build resilience to climate impacts would be at risk.

Sequestration will now come due around the same time as a fight to fund the government for the rest of the year gets going. We expect to be heavily involved in making sure that conservation priorities such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other Department of Interior and Forest Service programs are adequately funded by Congress. 

These two looming questions, how to avoid sequestration cuts and how to make sure our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and BLM lands are robustly funded will keep TWS busy for much of the next year.  Congress has avoided going off the first high peak known as the fiscal cliff, but more political cooperation will be needed as there are more mountains yet to climb this year.