By Kristin Merony

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
HELENA, MT., March 30 – As lawmakers work to reach a compromise on cutting federal spending for fiscal 2011, several sportsmen groups say they are deeply concerned that proposed funding cuts could strike directly at America’s bedrock conservation programs that protect fish and wildlife and pump nearly $200 billion into states and local communities.

“Theodore Roosevelt is rolling over in his grave at the prospects of the dismantling of our conservation framework, under the smokescreen of deficit reduction.  This is clearly an end run at sensible fish and wildlife conservation,” emphasized Jim Martin, Conservation Director, Berkley Conservation Institute.

Some of the programs slated for dramatic cuts or elimination in HR. 1, which was proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year,  include the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, Farm Bill conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, State and Tribal Wildlife Grants, the Clean Water Act, and more.

“Finding ways to reduce the massive federal deficit simply must be done. But in doing so, let’s make sure to support those federal investments that pay for themselves several times over – and be critical of those that are truly wasteful,” commented Dale Hall, President and CEO of Ducks Unlimited, Inc.

The groups noted that many of the proposed cuts would hit programs that are matched by state and local funding.  The LWCF is not taxpayer funded but rather paid for as a conservation offset through a small portion of receipts collected from offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters.

Representatives from 17 different organizations reported that cuts to these programs occur in a portion of the federal budget associated with water and land management, which amounts to about one half of one percent of the entire federal budget. 

Steve Moyer of Trout Unlimited acknowledged that sportsmen and women were willing to shoulder their share of the budget cuts, but simply did not agree with the disproportionate cuts and ill-conceived legislative riders proposed in HR 1. 

“Congress has a duty to address our fiscal problems in a way that is worthy of the support of all Americans who love the outdoors,” added Moyer.

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