There’s an old joke that goes: The opposite of progress must be Congress.
I suppose it’s only a joke to some. To others, like me, it’s an axiomatic truth; especially when a House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee introduces a bill to eliminate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, state wildlife grants, and for new wildlife refuges and expansions of existing refuges.
To be sure, there’s a chorus of folks out there that immediately sing in unison: “Cut the budget!” without even thinking through what these cuts mean to an industry that generates about $650 billion (that’s with a B, folks) per year.
The hunting and fishing industry has become a juggernaut in America. Sales grow each year, but the funny thing is, the industry is going to die without access to publicly held wildlife, lands, and waters. The industry has adopted a volume model, i.e., they need to sell product and produce more customers. But Congress has other plans.
The budget that gets voted on next week eliminates a core competency of the outdoor industry: public access to public lands. There are currently over 35 million acres of public lands that are inaccessible to hunters and anglers (hikers, birders, and bikers too). That’s 35 million acres where nobody has a reason to buy a new rifle, a dozen flies, or whatever.
Shortsighted cuts like the ones proposed by the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee cut the heart out of wildlife management practices that have been proven not only effective, but economically viable. Most of these programs have a return of investment much higher than any other government program. Why in the world would we cut programs that generate revenue—not only in terms of taxes but in terms of economic prosperity for rural communities? So yeah, in this case, the opposite of progress is Congress—specifically the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. If you want continued access to public lands and fantastic hunting opportunities afforded to all Americans, contact the Subcommittee and tell them that this is bad news for hunters, anglers, and the outdoor industry. Click here for the contact form to voice your opinion.
Here’s what the budget looks like:
– Eliminates all funding for the State Wildlife Grants program. The funding for this program is appropriated by Congress out of the General Fund. It also shows why our forefathers worked so hard to take wildlife management decisions away from politicians and place them with professional wildlife managers.
– Cuts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Budget by 27 percent. That’s a total of 34 percent cut in the last three years. This affects hunters and anglers greatly because our dollars are being siphoned away from the conservation of endangered species and wildlife habitat that helps ensure future abundance of game herds.
– Eliminates funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF has been seeing its funding diverted since its inception in 1963. With LWCF set to expire this year, we expect several attempts to make this popular and sustainable program permanent, along with a full source of funding. We’re scratching our heads as to why the House subcommittee thinks it’s a good idea to cut funding to a program that puts hunters and anglers out on the ground.
– Eliminates all funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Got ducks? Thanks to NAWCA you do. Cutting this program cuts more than just the tax dollars used to protect wildlife habitat, it takes food out of the mouths of ducks and other wildlife.
– Eliminates all funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. These programs are grassroots. They involve locals working with locals and agencies to best conserve working landscapes as well as important wildlife habitat.
– Eliminates funding for wildlife refuge expansions and new wildlife refuges. Access to hunting and fishing grounds has been cited as one of the biggest factors in declining hunter numbers. This budget helps ensure a future with fewer hunters and anglers because there will be fewer places to hunt and fish.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for a balanced budget. But cutting programs that are guaranteed to put money in the bank for small businesses, outdoor manufacturers and keeps our American heritage of public hunting and fishing especially on public lands is simply the House subcommittee cutting off their nose to spite their face.
Contact the Subcommittee and tell them to fund the conservation efforts that America’s hunters and anglers fought for.