WASHINGTON – The President’s budget contains both positive and potentially dubious news for sportsmen, according to Ducks Unlimited. Today’s budget request calls for increased funding for wetlands and waterfowl habitat programs, but also limits funding for incentives to allow public hunting and fishing access on private lands.
“It was what you might call in hunting a ‘mixed bag’,” said Scott Sutherland, director of governmental affairs for Ducks Unlimited. “We were very pleased to see that significant increases to programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act are included, but also discouraged at the changes that were proposed to limit access to lands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.”
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act retains the $10 million increase that had been released with the budget summary that was announced in February. Increases were also recommended for other habitat programs like the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Grasslands Reserve Program.
However, the budget request restricts the popular and effective Conservation Reserve Program. In the request, there is a prohibition on federal incentives for landowners to open their land to public hunting and fishing if similar incentives were provided by a state. The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program was also cut to half of its previous allocation, and the struggling Wetlands Reserve Program was cut from previous levels.
“This restriction on the Open Fields provision of the 2008 Farm Bill moves away from the intent to provide better access for hunters and anglers,” said Sutherland. “We’re concerned that it will also discourage farmers and ranchers from enrolling their land in the Conservation Reserve Program to begin with.”
In addition to the budget rollout, the Obama administration met with Ducks Unlimited and other groups today to discuss how wetland loss and climate change could affect America’s hunters and anglers. Also on the agenda for the meeting with the Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley were challenges facing sportsmen in terms of energy and habitat.
“It was a good meeting with Chairwoman Sutley and her team. We are very pleased to learn more about their approaches to solving the issues facing sportsmen,” said Sutherland. “Sportsmen are major players in the U.S. economy, contributing more than $76 billion every year, much of it to rural economies.”
Sutley announced that the President’s budget contained $133 million for wildlife adaptation affected by climate change. Also discussed were threats facing America’s drinking water and wetlands resulting from the loss of protections for geographically isolated wetlands. A bill to restore those protections, the Clean Water Restoration Act, is set to be voted on by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday May 14th.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization and has conserved more than 12 million acres. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands − nature’s most productive ecosystem − and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year.