There are major financial problems looming in the immediate future, and sportsmen across America will soon be feeling the pain of major cuts in federal and state budgets. Sure, we have faced similar budgetary problems in the past, but nothing as large as the figures being tossed around in Washington this time.
A House of Representatives subcommittee on natural resources, in order to meet their goal to cut discretionary spending, has already moved legislation that will completely eliminate or significantly reduce funding for several critical wildlife and conservation programs. Right now the overall cut to spending in the 2014 budget is 19 percent, or $5.5 billion less than the already reduced 2013 enacted level.
As it is currently proposing, this bill eliminates funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the State Wildlife Grants, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
Additionally, various agency operating budgets are slated for significant overall reductions including a 27 percent cut for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a proposed $75.5 million cut for the Bureau of Land Management, a more than $100 million cut to the U.S. Geological Survey, and a nearly 50 percent reduction to the Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research programs.
Now I am all for federal budget cutting, but this is insanity at its worst. And what makes this bitter pill even harder to swallow is the absolute fact that similar draconian cuts are guaranteed for as long as Congress keeps trying to reduce the national debt by cutting only discretionary spending, rather than also including mandatory spending such as welfare and Medicaid, which are the real drivers of the national debt.
The Senate continues this budgetary insanity by going in the other direction, adding millions of dollars in budget increases that we as a nation simply cannot afford. Their bill proposes $400 million additional for LWCF, $35 million more for NAWCA, and $61 million for State Wildlife Grants. While overall agency operating budgets are proposed for cuts, those cuts are far less significant in the Senate draft than the House bill.
Here is an earth-shaking suggestion: Why not leave the conservation and wildlife funding bill the same as the 2013 budget amount? But that is just too simple a concept for either house in the Congress to grasp on to, much less accept.
Folks, our political system in this country is severely broken. It will be up to the voters in 2014 and again in 2016 to either fix it properly or keep kicking the can down the road. But if we keep kicking that can, then we can also expect to see Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Great Smokey Mountains national parks and a lot of other federal reservations with a big “closed” sign hanging at their entrance gates.
Len Lisenbee is an outdoors freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Daily Messenger. Contact him at email@example.com.