The Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday passed a bill out of subcommittee that would cut funding for key conservation programs of importance to waterfowl. Of greatest significance to Ducks Unlimited is the $22.3 million appropriation for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a more than $13 million cut from last fiscal year.
“While we understand the spending constraints the House Appropriations Committee is operating under, we are very disappointed with the spending level recommended for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund in the subcommittee’s bill,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “NAWCA leverages a modest investment of federal dollars with significant non-federal dollars from partner organizations like Ducks Unlimited to deliver exemplary on-the-ground wetlands conservation across the nation. This appropriations plan is not good for conservation or the economy benefited by outdoor recreationists.”
Since the program’s inception, just over $1 billion in federal grants have been leveraged to collect an additional $3 billion in matching and non-matching funds. These dollars have been invested in more than 2,000 projects that have resulted in the conservation of more than 25 million acres of critical waterfowl and wildlife habitat across North America.
“These projects benefit not only waterfowl, but also our citizens, providing water storage, flood protection and other tangible values. NAWCA is one of the most effective conservation programs administered by the U.S. government and its return on taxpayer investment is unparalleled,” Hall continued. “We are committed to working with Congress throughout the appropriations process to increase funding for this essential program. Our hope is that the final enacted bill will contain funding levels more reflective of NAWCA’s effectiveness, its value and its significant contributions to wetlands habitat conservation and the economy.”
Also in the bill were major cuts to other key programs that impact waterfowl, including an overall 21 percent cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget and a dramatic 80 percent drop in recommended funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). On a parallel track, DU and a large number of partners are supporting LWCF funding in the ongoing negotiations over the transportation bill. The current Senate version of the bill includes $1.4 billion in LWCF funding. DU continues to encourage its supporters to contact their members of Congress to support this important component of the highway bill.
The subcommittee bill now moves to the full Appropriations Committee for markup and the Senate will act on the resulting legislation later this year. DU is working to restore funding for programs in the bill most important to waterfowl.