As Congress and the President work over the next two months to forge a final budget agreement, it is crucial for them to hear from you about protecting funding for programs that conserve wildlife and habitat from any further cuts.
Caring for the wild isn't about politics. It's something all Americans want.
The budget agreement that was signed into law at the end of the year to avert draconian automatic cuts under the Fiscal Cliff still could have damaging impacts on the non-defense discretionary category, the smallest portion of the federal budget. This includes funding for endangered species, wildlife law enforcement, national wildlife refuges, and a host of other programs critical to wildlife conservation.
I have two concerns with the budget agreement that passed. First, the deal only delayed the destructive automatic cuts that would have been triggered under the Fiscal Cliff for two months subject to a final overall agreement on deficit reduction.
Second, as part of the deal to put off these deep automatic cuts, the agreement locked in some smaller cuts for discretionary programs for the next two years that could result in further reductions for already inadequately funded wildlife conservation programs.
Further cuts will dramatically affect programs that are already hard hit with cutbacks. Non-defense discretionary funding has already been reduced to levels not seen since President Eisenhower held office. Even completely eliminating all of these programs would still not balance the budget. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, wildlife and conservation programs supported by nearly all Americans will suffer devastating cutbacks.
* The listing and recovery of endangered species will be severely curtailed.
* Urgent research on threats to endangered animals like the White-nose disease that is wiping out entire colonies of bats could be abandoned.
* Wildlife law enforcement reductions will leave wildlife refuges vulnerable to criminal activity and will decimate anti-wildlife poaching and smuggling enforcement operations.
* Many national wildlife refuges, forests and parks will be closed entirely -- harming local economies that benefit from millions of visitors each year.
* Many public lands visitor centers will close, resulting in loss of education and recreation programs that benefit outdoor enthusiasts and children.
* Protection for migratory birds will go unenforced.
As the next budget agreement is developed, please work to prevent any further cuts to crucial programs that protect our wild animals and open spaces! Thank you for your consideration.