Conservation Public Lands & Waters

President Obama’s Budget is a Mixed Bag for Outdoorsmen

The president recently unveiled his new budget for 2015. For hunters and anglers, it’s a good-news-bad-news scenario. Some things make perfect sense while others will leave you scratching your head.

Either way, the president’s budget is a starting place, when it comes to protecting access and investing in America’s public lands.

The Good
The president has included full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF helps pay for fishing access sites, boat ramps, and protecting key habitat, using royalties that oil companies pay for offshore oil drilling. LWCF has given American hunters and anglers some premier spots for chasing big game. Places like the Tenderfoot Acquisition in Montana, the Silvio E. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in New England, and inholdings in the Tahoe National Forest in California.

Wild Fire: Fighting forest fires is an enormously expensive endeavor, largely on the shoulders of the Forest Service. Traditionally, costs of fighting catastrophic wildfires have eaten up the Departments of Agriculture and Interior’s budgets, draining funds for trail maintenance, habitat improvements and other services critical to outdoor families. The president’s budget would shift the lion’s share of firefighting cost to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is a visionary change that could vastly improve management of our public lands. This is a big deal, folks. The Forest Service’s budget is eaten alive by costs associated with fires. Changing how these efforts are funded ensures clear trails, better stewardship of our forestry resources and better big game and fishing habitat.

The Bad
North American Wetlands Conservation Act: NAWCA is a program that is designed to grow duck numbers, restore wetlands and ensure great habitat for future generations. Unfortunately, the program took a 28 percent cut in the president’s budget. That’s bad news when droughts are hammering our duck factories.

State and Tribal Wildlife Grants: Consider this the “endangered species prevention program.” This money helps conserve species that are in trouble before they are listed as endangered or threatened. The administration cut funding to this program by 44 percent. This funding goes to state game and fish agencies, freeing up license revenue to focus on better access, better game management, and helps ensure that states have the resources necessary to conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund: This fund was cut 41 percent. This is an innovative fund that uses the carrot instead of the stick, when it comes to conserving endangered species, by offering ranchers and farmers incentives for supporting endangered species habitat. That means ranchers and farmers will have less inclination to conserve habitat for species like blackfooted ferrets, prairie songbirds or other wildlife. We’ve seen this program work in private land releases of endangered species like black-footed ferrets, help pay for mitigation efforts by landowners looking to preserve riparian areas and help ensure that people who have to live with the listing decisions have the tools they need to not be bowled over by regulations.