by Bob Marshall
$615 Million Cut from Conservation
Sportsmen got a sneak preview of how much Congress values their issues earlier this week, and it wasn’t pretty: House and Senate appropriators agreed to cut $615 million from key fish and wildlife conservation programs that support public hunting and fishing–not to mention the overall quality of human health.
The cuts were contained in the 2012 “minibus” spending bill, so-called because it will only keep the government running another four weeks, rather than a regular “omnibus” spending bill which would have provided funding through the end of the fiscal year.
Among the drastic cuts announced:
• Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program cut by $35 million.
• Wetlands Reserve Program cut by approximately $200 million.
• Grasslands Reserve Program cut by approximately $30 million.
• Environmental Quality Incentives Program cut by $350 million.
Included in those cuts was a defunding of the landmark Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, also known as Open Fields, that establishes a system to allow private landowners to open their property to public outdoor recreation–including hunting and fishing.
That report drew supporting comment from the chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
And remember, this is just the first round of cuts opponents of conservation spending have planned. Hunters and anglers need to join everyone else concerned about the future of fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation, and get the message to their congressional delegation that the facts show conservation spending actually reduces the deficit and supports more than six million jobs.
You can find out who your reps are and how to contact them here.
NOAA Seeking Comment on Enforcement Plan
Sportsmen know a fisheries management plan is only as good as the compliance it draws from fishers. That’s one reason NOAA is seeking public comment until January ninth on the draft of its new and–hopefully–improved enforcement program.
According to the agency, “These enforcement priorities are the latest step NOAA is taking to improve its enforcement program, and will help the agency emphasize compliance through better communication with fishermen. Other improvements in the last two years include new leadership, higher-level review of charging decisions, and a new penalty policy to ensure more consistent penalties nationwide.”
You can view the plan and submit a comment at www.gc.noaa.gov/enforce-office.html.