Thursday, February 17, 2011

House Budget Bill Threatens Bird Conservation Funding and Programs

ABC Conservancy bulletin

To: Bird Conservation Alliance

From: Anne Law, American Bird Conservancy
Date: February 17, 2011

House Budget Bill Threatens Bird Conservation Funding and Programs

The House of Representatives is now debating H.R. 1, the Full Year Continuing Resolution for 2011, with votes taking place throughout last week. The bill includes destructive funding cuts and policy provisions that would severely harm our wildlife and other natural resources.

Your Representative needs to hear from you that you support our nation’s effort to conserve birds. Please call your Representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202/224-3121. Urge them to vote no on H.R. 1 and to vote against the amendments harmful to bird conservation listed below.

State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program

H.R. 1 zeroes out funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program which was funded previously at $90 million. The program was created by Congress in 2000 to assist states with their voluntary efforts to protect the more than 12,000 at-risk wildlife species around the United States from becoming endangered. The program leverages more than $100 million per year in state, tribal, local, and private dollars that directly support jobs in virtually all states. Eliminating this program also undermines the federal government’s ten year investment in State Wildlife Action Plans.

North American Wetlands Conservation Fund

H.R. 1 zeroes out funding for the North American Conservation Fund which was funded previously at $47.6 million. Half of the original wetlands in the United States have already been lost. Eliminating funding for this program will exacerbate declines of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife dependent on wetlands. This program has levered over $2 billion in matching funds affecting 20 million acres through the work of more than 4,000 partners and fostered public and private sector cooperation for migratory bird conservation, flood control, erosion control, and water quality. For every dollar of money invested in the program, an average of 3.2 dollars is raised to match the federal share by non-federal entities.

Clean Water Act

H.R. 1 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing, administering, or enforcing a change to a rule or guidance document pertaining to the definitions of waters under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Recent court decisions have created confusion in the implementation of the CWA, which protects the nation’s waters and wetlands. The proposed language protects the recent loopholes and jeopardizes the EPA’s authority to protect some 20 million acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat from development and degradation.

Other Programs Impacted by H.R. 1:

· Zeroes out the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act which is the federal government’s primary means to help the states and territories carry out conservation projects to benefit threatened and endangered species.

· Cuts $65 million from the Operations Budget of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) which had been previously funded at $1.204 billion. This would drastically impact FWS staff from being able to monitor and protect endangered species, and to keep birds and other wildlife populations healthy.

· Cuts funding requested for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $59 million, an 86 percent from Fiscal Year 2010 enacted levels and the lowest level in its 45 year history. This program provides protection for lands in our national wildlife refuges, parks, forests, and other public lands and also for state conservation of open space and wildlife habitat through a small percentage of oil and drilling receipts. These are not taxpayer dollars.

· Cuts $12 million from the National Wildlife Refuge System which is currently funded at $491 million. This will likely mean the Refuge system will have to cut staff and neglect important restoration and management projects as well as basic facility maintenance.

· A permanent cut of almost 50,000 acres to the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

· A cut of over $350 million from the Environmental Quality Assistance Program (EQUIP)

· A cut of $170 million from the USDA National Resource Conservation Service

Amendments to be offered on the House Floor by Members

In addition to the cuts already in H.R. 1, Representatives can also offer amendments on the House floor. Currently there are 583 amendments that have been filed for consideration. Of particular interest to ABC are:

· Amendment 85 offered by Rep. Pompeo would have zeroed out the remaining $7.4 million for the USDA Forest Service International Program which supports an array of effective bird conservation projects;

· Amendment 293 offered by Rep. McClintock that would zero out funding for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grant program, which protects declining bird species found throughout the United States. H.R. 1 funded the program at $4.430 million;

· Amendment 557 by Rep. Gardner would prohibit EPA from regulating any use of any chemical present in hunting or fishing equipment, not just those limited uses. This amendment would take away EPA’s authority to regulate lead bullets and fishing gear.

Currently out of the three amendments listed above the only one that has been considered was Amendment 85 which fortunately was defeated. The House is scheduled to be in session late into tonight and for the rest of this week and are aiming to pass H.R. 1 by the end of this week. Attached is a community sign on letter that ABC signed onto urging House members to oppose all anti-environmental amendments. (Unfortunately due to the sheer number of amendments offer it is not comprehensive.) In addition, also attached is a more detailed spreadsheet description of the anti-environmental riders.

The Senate has already signaled that they will not take up the House bill and have begun work on a Senate version. President Obama has also publicly stated that he will veto the House bill so there will most likely be another short term Continuing Resolution.

If anyone has any additional questions and or concerns please contact me at or call 202/234-7181. We will send another update once the bill has passed.

Steve Holmer

Director of the Bird Conservation Alliance &

Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy

202/234-7181 ext. 216

The Bird Conservation Alliance (BCA - is a network of organizations working together to conserve America's wild birds. BCA is facilitated by American Bird Conservancy ( which conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.