WASHINGTON -(Ammoland.com)- Public lands fish and wildlife habitat, public access funding, and hunting and angling opportunities will face severe negative impacts in the administration’s fiscal 2018 budget, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers announced today.
Key resource agency funding is slashed, important staff positions are eliminated and programs important to public lands and sportsmen are cut in the budget, a draft version of which was released in March.
Notable measure include an 11 percent overall reduction in the Interior Department, an 84 percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and complete elimination of funding for a decade-plus collaborative effort to conserve the Western sagebrush steppe.
BHA President and CEO Land Tawney called the cuts “unprecedented” in both nature and scope.
“The administration’s budget starves our public lands of critical funding,” said Tawney. “The cuts they would levy on our natural resource agencies, resource professionals and key programs are unprecedented and far-reaching in scope: Not only would they profoundly diminish our lands and waters, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor opportunities; they also would hobble America’s potent outdoors economy – currently $887 billion strong, sustainable and growing.
“On his first day at Interior, Secretary Zinke signed a secretarial order calling for the expansion of public access and hunting and fishing opportunities on U.S. public lands – an action we applauded,” Tawney continued. “Today, only weeks later, we are confused by the drastic cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has done more to facilitate public access opportunities to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors than any other federal program in history. The proposed budget flies in the face of what sportsmen and women need and want most: access.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund represents a bipartisan commitment to safeguarding the nation’s outdoor heritage, having enhanced public access to millions of acres in the United States over the course of its 50-year-plus existence. The LWCF utilizes revenues from offshore oil and gas development to bolster state and local efforts on behalf of America's parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and other public open spaces.
As well, the administration’s budget would unravel critical greater sage grouse conservation plans, a model for landscape level conservation that prioritizes state and local needs as well as habitat conditions.
This approach has forestalled the need to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act and played a key role in the health of 165 million acres of sagebrush steppe, relied upon by more than 350 species of fish and wildlife, including big-game species such as mule deer, pronghorn and elk.
“Healthy and functioning sage grouse habitat is essential to conserving the sage grouse and hundreds of other species,” Tawney stated. “In addition to halting funding critical to sage steppe conservation, the administration is ignoring over a decade of collaborative work by private land owners, state and federal agencies, and hunters and anglers.”
Tawney concluded, “Bottom line, the administration is trying to put the golden goose on the dinner table instead of letting that bird lay eggs every day – and we as a nation will be poorer as a result.”
BHA reiterated a call for members of Congress to summarily reject the administration budget and act in the best interests of citizens, the economy and U.S. public lands and waters.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.
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