Trout Unlimited Opposes Conservation Cuts
Trout Unlimited (TU) criticized severe and disproportionate spending cuts in critical conservation programs that were approved by the U.S. House of Representatives when it passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, HR 2112.
TU applauded the bill?s upside: an amendment to stop the Food and Drug Administration?s (FDA) poorly executed plan to approve an application for production of genetically engineered salmon was included in the bill prior to its passage.
?Sportsmen conservationists are strongly opposed to the ill-conceived cuts contained in HR 2112 because we love the conservation programs contained in the Farm Bill, and we don?t want to see years of great partnership work with farmers destroyed by a budget cutting frenzy,? said Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs.
From Washington state to Wisconsin to Maine, TU works with landowners to leverage modest Farm Bill program funds with TU-generated funds to yield on-the-ground results which sustain trout and salmon as well as farm communities. These programs are popular with landowners, successful, and cost?effective.
The cuts come in addition to the $500 million in reductions that Farm Bill conservation accounts suffered as a result of the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations process in April, and worse, would serve as baselines for future appropriations bills and the new Farm Bill reauthorization scheduled to occur in 2012. Together, these cuts put the future viability of the Farm Bill conservation programs at great risk.
The following are some of the worst cuts contained in the bill, and some of the on-the- ground effects they would incur.
Conservation Program Cuts
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP): WHIP helps farmers and ranchers protect and restore habitat for fish and wildlife on their lands. HR 2112 would cut $35 million, or 41%, compared to levels authorized for 2012 in the Farm Bill. TU?s Driftless Area restoration initiative work in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, which utilizes WHIP to restore valuable trout streams, would be undermined by these cuts.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): EQIP provides assistance to farmers and ranchers for practices that benefit fish and wildlife, with special focus on protecting streams from livestock and improving irrigation practices to save water. Under HR 2112, EQIP would be capped at $1.4 billion. This $350 million cut reduces the funding by 20% below 2012 levels authorized in the Farm Bill. TU partners with landowners in West Virginia, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Montana to fence streams and improve irrigation to benefit trout watersheds.
- Cooperative Conservation Initiative Program (CCPI): CCPI is an especially useful program, as it draws funds from WHIP, EQIP and other conservation programs to allow larger-scale, more flexible conservation partnerships to flourish. Drastic cuts in WHIP and EQIP will therefore also damage the effectiveness of CCPI. TU will be using CCPI in eastern Washington state to improve irrigation practices to restore salmon populations.
- Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program (Open Fields): Open Fields encourages farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to make their land accessible to the public for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-based recreational opportunities. HR 2112 would completely eliminate funding for this program.
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): CSP pays farmers to install and maintain practices that benefit natural resources. HR 2112 would cap CSP at $634 million, a reduction of $171 million, or 21% below the levels authorized in the Farm Bill for 2012.
- Conservation Operations: Conservation Operations provides on-the-ground conservation technical assistance. Funded at $770 million, which is $99 million below FY11 levels.
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP): WRP allows farmers and landowners the opportunity to restore, maintain and protect wetlands on their property, leading to improved habitat for wildlife and decreased flooding risk. The result of HR 2112 would be 64,000 fewer acres enrolled compared to the levels authorized for the program in the Farm Bill. This is equal to a $200 million cut, or approximately 26% of the program.
Sportsmen conservationists are willing to do our share to work with Congress to reduce the federal budget deficit, but we should not be shouldered with disproportionately high cuts which undercut years of our cooperative efforts with farming and ranching communities,? said Moyer. ?We will continue our work with Congress to address the nation?s deficit problem in a balanced and fair way, while protecting the programs that are vital to our projects and coldwater resources,? said Moyer.
Healthy habitat supports hunting and fishing, which are huge economic drivers in rural agriculture communities around the nation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sportsmen generate $22 billion in hunting expenditures and $42 billion in fishing expenditures each year.
HR 2112 now goes to the U.S. Senate, where the Senate Appropriations Committees are working on their versions of the appropriations bills.
Genetically Engineered Salmon
The lone silver lining in H.R. 2112 was an amendment offered by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) that would bar the FDA from using federal funds to approve any application from a company for the production of genetically engineered salmon. The FDA is currently considering a permit application by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. that would make genetically modified Atlantic salmon the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption.
?Many wild salmon populations, including wild Atlantic salmon in Maine, are listed as threatened or endangered species and cannot stand additional new stressors,? said Keith Curley, TU?s Director of Government Affairs. ?This amendment would prevent the FDA from putting wild salmon at unnecessary risk of competition and interbreeding from genetically modified salmon.?
TU thanks Representatives Young and Woolsey for their leadership in protecting wild salmon, and urges the U.S. Senate to follow through on preventing the FDA from approving genetically engineered salmon for human consumption.
Climate Change Adaptation
In addition to conservation cuts, the bill also contained a harmful policy amendment that would prevent USDA from implementing a climate change adaptation policy. A warming atmosphere has already begun to increase air and stream temperatures, change precipitation timing and volume, and reduce average snowpack, all of which threaten trout and salmon habitat. The amendment prevents USDA from using the best available climate science to prioritize climate-smart conservation decisions on our National Forests and in the Farm Bill conservation programs. Being able to prioritize areas to protect or restore is doubly important considering the increasing scarcity of conservation funding.
Trout Unlimited (www.tu.org) is a non-profit organization with more 140,000 members nationwide who are dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America?s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.
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