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House Passes Bill Funding Key Conservation Programs, Tacks on Harmful Riders

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‘Cromnibus’ sustains or increases funding for key conservation programs;
cuts and policy riders undermine sportsmen’s interests in other areas
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‘Cromnibus’ sustains or increases funding for key conservation programs;
cuts and policy riders undermine sportsmen’s interests in other areas
WASHINGTON – Despite a number of damaging policy riders and funding cuts, a $1 trillion-plus spending bill advanced by the House of Representatives last night represents a necessary step for natural resources conservation and sportsmen’s priorities, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.
The House passed the “cromnibus” 219-206 on Thursday, avoiding a federal shutdown by mere hours and brokering an agreement that would fund most of the government through September 2015. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill by Monday.
“Given the need to address federal deficits, level funding for some of our priority programs represents a short-term win,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.
Funding for several key conservation programs would remain level or be increased for fiscal year 2015. The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program and Land and Water Conservation Fund would maintain current funding levels. The Forest Legacy Program would receive a $2 million increase from FY14 enacted levels. The bill also would prevent regulation of the lead content of ammunition or fishing tackle covered under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
However, the bill would prohibit the Interior Department from writing or issuing a rule under the Endangered Species Act for the listings of any or all four subspecies of sage grouse in the coming year. The delay sets a dangerous precedent that further endangers other game species, such as mule deer and pronghorn, that depend on sage grouse habitat, which has declined by close to 50 percent in recent years.
Congress also failed to include the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, commonsense legislation that would allow the Forest Service to pay for catastrophic wildfires without raiding funds from other accounts on which sportsmen rely, including trails, hazardous fuels reduction and legacy road decommissioning.
“The current wildfire funding mechanism has hamstrung the capacity and budget of the U.S. Forest Service in recent years as wildfires grow in severity and frequency,” continued Fosburgh. “This provision, along with the sage grouse rider dismisses sportsmen’s interests and makes sense neither scientifically or economically.”
Sagebrush ecosystems that support sage grouse are an economic driver in the West, with visitors to BLM sagebrush lands in 11 Western states spending an estimated $623 million in 2013. Sage grouse habitat supports more than 350 species of plants and animals, including valuable big-game species such as mule deer, pronghorn, and elk. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has faced a September 2015 deadline to issue a decision regarding whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Passage of the cromnibus could leave that decision in limbo.
Funding levels for priority conservation programs follow:
National Wildlife Refuge System
•The refuge system will receive $474.2 million, a $2 million increase over last fiscal year.
Department of the Interior and Related Agencies
•The Department of the Interior will receive $10.7 billion, slightly above the current $10.5 billion but down from Obama’s $10.9 billion request.
•State and Tribal Wildlife Grants will receive $58.695 million, level funding from FY14 enacted levels.
•The North American Wetland Conservation Fund will receive $34.145, level funding from FY14.
•Forest Legacy Programs will receive $53 million, a $2 million increase from FY14.
•The Land & Water Conservation Fund will receive $306 million, level funding from FY14.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
•NOAA will receive $5.4 billion, an increase of about $126 million from FY14.
Agriculture
•The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, mandatory programs under the 2014 Farm Bill, would see roughly $200 million in reduced, mandatory spending for 2015.
Fisheries
•National Fish Hatchery System operations will receive $52,860,000.
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