New Report: Congressional Panel Can Cut Deficit, Protect Wildlife

“Conservation Works” Shows More Deep Cuts Would Threaten Jobs Nationwide

10-27-2011 // Miles Grant
Lake fishing silhouettes

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction can protect America’s wildlife, public health and economy by ensuring a deficit deal protects critical conservation programs that have already been disproportionately slashed, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Conservation Works: How Congress Can Lower the Deficit and Protect Wildlife & Public Health (pdf) also identifies more than $100 billion in savings that could be realized by cutting wasteful tax giveaways for oil, coal and ethanol.

“Investments in conservation programs are a great bargain, accounting for just one percent of federal spending but delivering huge benefits to all Americans, protecting wildlife, investing in clean energy jobs, and reducing pollution that harms our children,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. “More super-sized cuts to conservation programs already cut to the bone would have devastating effects on the more than 6 million jobs supported by outdoor recreation.”

Congress has already slashed several key conservation programs by more than 30 percent, disproportionate compared to just a 7 percent overall cut in other non-defense discretionary spending. If the deficit committee fails to reach a deal and automatic cuts are triggered, already-weakened conservation programs will be decimated.

“The outdoor recreation industry contributes $730 billion to the economy and delivers $49 billion in tax revenue. Unfairly targeting conservation programs will put all that at risk,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-founder and co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Congress should heed the advice of President Theodore Roosevelt and treat America’s ‘natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.’”

National parks, wildlife refuges and other sites attracted more than 414 million visitors in 2008, supporting 316,000 jobs in tourism and recreation in all 50 states and generating more than $25 billion in economic activity, according to the Interior Department.

“Businesses like ours depend on healthy natural resources to keep the tourism economy thriving,” said Beezer Molten, president and founder of Half Moon Outfitters, which employs more than 100 people. “These may seem like abstract numbers in Washington, but more cuts would mean real pain at an already tough time here in South Carolina.”

As the report details, critical programs are at risk in deficit committee members’ home states:

  • State Wildlife Grants have helped bring once-endangered species like the bald eagle back from the brink
  • Clean Air Act prevents 160,000 deaths a year, providing grants to improve air quality in cities like Los Angeles and Houston
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds work to clean water for people and wildlife from Puget Sound to the Chesapeake Bay

“From Boston to Houston to Los Angeles the Clean Air Act has prevented 160,000 deaths and improves Americans’ lives every single day. Workers are more productive when they’re not out sick. Children who don’t stay home sick learn more,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. “We must not turn back the clock and say we can’t afford clean air for our children and grandchildren.”

Read the full report at NWF.org/ConservationWorks.

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