Congressional Budget Bill Released; Sportsmen Laud ‘Back to Business’ Approach

WASHINGTON – Monday’s release by Congress of an omnibus appropriations package represents a significant step toward returning to a normal budget and appropriations process, said the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and provides federal agencies and their conservation partners a measure of funding certainty they have not experienced in some time.

The expected passage of the wide-ranging legislative package, which includes an Interior, Environment and Related Agencies bill, would mark the first time since 2010 that Congress has completed the budget and appropriations process rather than relying on stop-gap continuing resolutions to fund the federal government. Sportsmen hailed this development as a significant, positive achievement.

“A lack of budgetary certainty can be extremely damaging to federal agencies’ effectiveness and efficiency,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Getting back to a more predictable budget and appropriations cycle recommits agencies to mission-critical conservation activities that benefit all Americans.”

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited and also a former USFWS director, echoed this sentiment.

“We applaud Congress and particularly the leaders of the budget conference for finding compromise in this ‘back to business’ approach,” said Hall. “Sportsmen look to them to continue this spirit of cooperation for fiscal year 2015 and beyond.”

Moreover, the $30 billion provided to the Interior bill represents an increase of almost $6 billion from the House of Representatives’ earlier proposal and is an important first step toward reinvesting in America’s outdoor recreation economy.

“We were very pleased with the overall funding level in the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies portion of the omnibus bill,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “The appropriations committee’s decision to bolster this funding reflects its important role as the foundation of the outdoor recreation economy.”

Line-item highlights include the following:

    • The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund received an increase of more than $500,000, bringing total funding up to $34.145 million.
    • The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program also received an increase of more than $500,000, bringing total funding up to $58.695 million.
    • The Land and Water Conservation Fund received about $300 million, a small increase over enacted.
    • The National Wildlife Refuge System received a healthy 4 percent increase in funding, bringing the total dollar amount from $454 million to $472 million.
    • The Bureau of Land Management Wildlife Management Program received an influx of $15 million to help prevent an Endangered Species Act listing of the greater sage grouse.

“The FY14 omnibus appropriations bill provided the National Wildlife Refuge System with a desperately needed bump in funding over FY13,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “This will help the Refuge System begin to catch up on long overdue conservation work and increase opportunities for America’s hunters and anglers.”

“Budget dysfunction has cost sportsmen quality days afield and access to quality places to hunt and fish,” said Ron Regan, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “This agreement allows state fish and wildlife agencies to enhance the experience of hunter and anglers.”

“Six months ago, the House of Representatives was debating an Interior appropriations bill that eliminated funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other critical conservation programs,” concluded Fosburgh. “The omnibus appropriations bill released yesterday represents a drastic improvement over that proposal and a strong step forward for conservation.”