This Post is Prepared by Donnie Dann
Occasionally the news is really good. The Bipartisan Budget Act signed into law late last year should be applauded by conservationists everywhere. Although the administration’s proposed budget included draconian cuts to a wide variety of environmental programs, with a reduction in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31%, the final bill actually contained an increase for the EPA in excess of three-quarters of a billion dollars. In fact most of the agencies responsible for environmental protection received an increase from the prior year.
Moreover, a variety of environmental rules that were targeted for overturn were left largely untouched or even strengthened. Consider just one example, not just the language in the enacted law, but its tone. It pertains to the plummeting populations of our nation’s bats, consumers of billions of mosquitos and other night flying insects and a mammal that’s an essential part of our nation’s ecosystem, caused by a fungus called white-nose syndrome.
“White-Nose Syndrome.-The four Federal land management agencies and the U.S. Geological Survey are expected to continue to prioritize research on, and efforts to address, white-nose syndrome in bats and to work with other Federal, State, and non-governmental partners to implement the North American Bat Monitoring Program.”
A few other examples of the Act’s protecting our environmental heritage includes spending by the Corps of Engineers, an agency that increasingly factors in conservation in performing their mission. In every case I cite here, the administration’s budget had zeroed out any expenditures for these programs.
Shore Protection $53,000,000; Environmental Restoration or Compliance $35,000,000; Emergency Streambank and Shoreline Protection, $8,000,000; Project Modifications for Improvement of the Environment, $4,000,000 (Here the administration’s budget did propose $1,000,000). In some cases these identical programs are enhanced by appropriations for the same purposes but by other cabinet departments.
Other notable improvements over the administration’s budget: Funding for The National Park Service had been targeted for a 12 % decrease, but has been increased by 9%. Funding for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the National Wildlife Refuge System has been increased by $75 million to $1.6 billion. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), an eight-state, binational, bipartisan effort to clean up polluted areas which had been facing budget reductions of 90%, has been fully funded. The Land and Water Conservation Fund went from the administration’s 0 to $425,000,000.
Hawaii is known as the bird extinction capital of the world, per this from the Fish and Wildlife Service “Since humans arrived, 71 bird species have become extinct and 31 more are federally listed as threatened or endangered. Of these, 10 have not been seen in as long as 40 years and may be extinct.” Recognizing the peril of endangered forest birds in Hawaii this Act increased funding for Hawaii’s bird conservation efforts to $3 million.
The big picture: the entire Department of Interior, which includes the EPA and other environmentally related agencies saw their allotment increase from $32.28 billion to $35.25 billion, and the Department of Energy’s appropriation went from 37.8 billion to $43.2 billion.
I must emphasize that this list is only a tiny fraction of a bill over 300 pages in length.
It’s doubtful this could have happened without a lot hard work by Nature Conservancy, American Bird Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, and many other fine conservation organizations. They deserve your help.