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U.S. Budget Makes Some Accomodations


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From the Birding Community E-bulletin, February 2014:

 

Last month, Congress passed and the President signed, an omnibus-spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2014 - funding the government from 1 October 2013 to 30 September 2014. (The government had been operating under a Continuing Resolution - a CR - since the government shut down in October.) This spending bill combined all 12 appropriations bills (funding for the entire government) into one gigantic package.

 

Some bird-and-conservation issues of interest in the omnibus-bill deserve mention. 

  • State Wildlife Grants Program, which helps states keep species from becoming endangered, will be funded at $58.7 million.
  • Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation grants that assist in conservation of migratory bird species will be funded at $3.66 million.
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants for partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects will be funded at $34.1 million.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the land acquisition fund derived from offshore oil and gas revenue, will get $306 million.

Among LWCF projects are $35 million for the following in the National Wildlife Refuge System:

  • Crown of the Continent, Montana - $11.94 million
  • Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area, North and South Dakota - $8.65 million
  • Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area, Florida - $5 million
  • Longleaf Pine-Okefenokee NWR, Georgia; St. Marks NWR, Florida; Cape Romain and Waccamaw NWRs, South Carolina - $9.481 million

Included in the Interior Appropriations bill portion is a desperately needed four percent increase for the Refuge System's Operations & Maintenance accounts, taking the System from $454 million to $472 million.

 

All this is good, but it falls short of what is needed and far below recently authorized (i.e. allowed) funding levels:

  • The State Wildlife Grant program ($58.7 million) has had funding up to $90 million previously (2010).
  • The Neotrop Act ($3.66 million) has been authorized at $6 million (2009).
  • NAWCA ($34.1 million) has been authorized at $75 million (2012).
  • LWCF ($306 million) has been consistently authorized at $900 million (back to 1977).

While the four percent increase for the Refuge System is a success, it won't bring the System back to where it was just a few short years ago.

 

Similarly, the National Park Service is only back to the levels of FY12, prior to the damaging sequester.

 

And the crucial LWCF is only providing $42 million to the stateside assistance grants, well short of its intended proportion.

 

We will cover LWCF issues in an upcoming E-bulletin this year, but it's simply important to know while that these funding levels could have been worse, they are still below what it is needed to simply stand still when it comes to bird, wildlife, and land conservation.

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