A coalition of hunting, fishing and conservation organizations urged the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to maintain mandatory spending levels for the U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs as authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced.
“USDA conservation programs represent the single-largest federal investment in conservation on private land,” said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “Farmers and ranchers are eager to share the cost of clean water, clean air, a stable climate and fish and wildlife habitat, and funding popular Farm Bill programs will provide these landowners the incentive and opportunity help safeguard these important natural resources.”
American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, Land Trust Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and The Wildlife Society joined in asking the Appropriations Committees to fully fund vital fish and wildlife habitat conservation programs.
The groups expressed their wishes in letters that were sent to committee members on June 3, preceding Friday's testimony by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Sec. Vilsack appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to detail President Obamas proposed budget cuts to conservation programs.
“We are concerned that the levels of funding proposed in the presidents budget will not meet private landowner demand for addressing air, energy, soil, water, and important fish and wildlife habitat issues across the country,” said Jen Mock Schaeffer agriculture conservation policy analyst at AFWA. “The sportsmens and conservation community urges the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to maintain the mandatory conservation funding that was prescribed for these programs in the 2008 Farm Bill.”
The TRCP said President Obamas 2010 budget proposal cut funding to many key USDA conservation programs. For example, the Wetlands Reserve Program, which is the only USDA program solely dedicated to wetlands conservation and has conserved nearly 2 million acres of wetlands since its inception, was cut by more than $26 million. This would eliminate nearly 139,000 acres of wetlands enrolled in the WRP.
“A particularly frustrating aspect of cutting conservation spending is that demand from farmers and ranchers far exceeds authorized funding levels,” said Brad Redlin, agricultural program director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “The USDA regularly records backlogged applications at numbers that are double or more of what available funding can meet.”
“Sufficient funding for these programs is vital to conservation of our natural resources that are located on private lands,” said Geoff Mullins, TRCP policy initiatives manager. “Not only do Farm Bill programs benefit fish and wildlife and their habitat, they also provide quality recreational opportunities for hunters, anglers and all who enjoy our natural resources. Sportsmen look to our leaders in both the House and Senate for prompt and decisive action to restore conservation funding and avoid a severe impact on Americas sporting traditions.” “Private landowners are constantly looking for ways to conserve fish and wildlife habitat on their lands,” added Dan Wrinn, director of public policy at DU. “These programs give these forward-thinking landowners the tools needed to help maintain the vitality of our nations ever-shrinking acres of wetlands, grasslands, forests and other fish and wildlife habitat. Hunters and anglers implore our congressional leaders to appropriate the funds needed for landowners to continue their conservation efforts.”