U.S. House of Rep. Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill Cuts Conservation Funding and Blocks Natural Resources Initiatives

July 13, 2011
Contact: Steve Moyer, Vice President of Government Affairs, (703) 284-9406, smoyer@tu.org

U.S. House of Rep. Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill Cuts Conservation Funding and Blocks Natural Resources Initiatives

Bill attacks Clean Water Act, public land management, watershed restoration, and conservation funding.

Arlington, Va. Trout Unlimited (TU) strongly opposes the appropriations bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed Tuesday by a the U.S. House of Rep. Appropriations Committee. The bill cuts funding for essential conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and North American Wetlands Conservation Act and contains harmful riders that undermine the Clean Water Act and other protective rules for rivers and streams.

Fishing and hunting generate $76.7 billion annually in economic activity in the U.S., said Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. We cant expect to sustain this powerful economic engine if were removing the very conservation programs that make it run.

The bill contains numerous harmful legislative riders, including attachments that will:

  • Stop the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA from finalizing guidance or conducting a rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protection for some wetlands and streams which was curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions (Rapanos in 2006 and SWANCC in 2001).
  • Discontinue rulemaking processes designed to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining.
  • Block the Interior Departments protection of one million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon National Park from new hard rock mining.
  • Delay EPA action on post-construction stormwater controls. Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces can result in the elimination of natural filtration, scouring of rivers and streams, increased pollutant load discharges, and degradation of the physical integrity of aquatic habitats, stream function, and overall water quality.
  • Block implementation of the Forest Services Travel Management Plans in California unless unauthorized routes are incorporated into the agencys trail planning efforts. Several years ago, unmanaged off-road vehicle use was identified by the Forest Service as one of the top four threats facing Americas forests and grasslands. This rider would make Californias forests revert back to unmanaged off-road vehicle use.
  • Prevent the EPA from using the Clean Air Act as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the largest polluters. The Clean Air Act has reduced other pollutants that threaten trout and salmon habitat, such as acid rain, at a much lower cost than initially expected, and it can be an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
  • Stop New York and other Great Lakes states from implementing more stringent ballast water standards by cutting off funds for any state that implements any standard more stringent than the international standard.

Rep. Moran (D-VA) and Rep. Dicks (D-WA) offered amendments that would remove these harmful riders, but the amendments were rejected by the committee.

Trout Unlimited thanks Reps. Moran and Dicks for their strong efforts to clean up this appropriations bill, and regrets that the committee chose to proceed with policy riders that will harm our rivers, streams and fisheries and do not belong in an appropriations bill, said Moyer.

The bill also proposes funding cuts for these vital conservation programs:

  • The North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a highly successful, landscape scale, partnership-driven effort, will be cut to $20 million, a 47% reduction from FY 11 enacted levels.
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund, our best tool for acquisition of valuable fish and wildlife habitat, will be cut to $62 million, $256 million below current funding levels,.
  • The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund will be cut to $2.85 million, a 95 % reduction from FY 11 enacted levels.
  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Resource Management budget will be cut by 13 %, which could affect successful programs like Fish Passage and Partners for Fish and Wildlife.
  • The Legacy Roads and Trails Initiative would lose at least $10 million from FY 11 enacted levels. The Legacy Roads and Trails program funds projects to replace culverts, decommission unneeded roads and perform critical maintenance on needed roads and trails, creating jobs and improving water quality.
  • The State Wildlife Grants program will be cut 64 % to $22 million. State Wildlife Grants are funds that are utilized by states to protect and restore wildlife habitat. The bill would also increase the cost-sharing requirements with the states, putting greater pressure on already strained state conservation budgets.

The bill will now move to the full floor of the U.S. House of Rep. and then to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Trout Unlimited will continue to fight to these excessive funding cuts and ill-conceived policy riders at every opportunity as this legislation progresses through Congress, Moyer said.

Trout Unlimited (www.tu.org) is a non-profit organization with more 140,000 members nationwide who are dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.