Trout Unlimited Opposes New Bill
Trout Unlimited (TU) strongly opposes the appropriations bill for Interior, Environment and Related Agencies passed Thursday by a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill cuts funding for essential conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and contains harmful riders that undermine the Clean Water Act and other protective rules for rivers and streams.
"Fishing and hunting generate $76.7 billion annually in economic activity in the U.S.," said Steve Moyer, VP for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. "We can't expect to sustain this powerful economic engine if we're removing the very conservation programs that make it run."
The bill contains numerous harmful legislative riders, including attachments that will:
- Stop the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA from finalizing guidance or conducting a rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protection for some wetlands and streams which were curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions (Rapanos in 2006 and SWANCC in 2001).
- Discontinue rulemaking processes designed to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining.
- Block the Interior Department's protection of 1 million acres of federal lands near Grand Canyon National Park from new hard rock mining.
- Delay EPA action on post-construction stormwater controls. Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces can result in the elimination of natural filtration, scouring of rivers and streams, increased pollutant load discharges, and degradation of the physical integrity of aquatic habitats, stream function, and overall water quality.
- Block implementation of the Forest Service's Travel Management Plans in California unless unauthorized routes are incorporated into the agency's trail planning efforts. Several years ago, unmanaged off-road vehicle use was identified by the Forest Service as one of the top four threats facing America's forests and grasslands. This rider would make California's forests to revert back to unmanaged off-road vehicle use.
- Prevent the EPA from using the Clean Air Act as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the largest polluters. The Clean Air Act has reduced other pollutants that threaten trout and salmon habitat, such as acid rain, at a much lower cost than initially expected, and it can be an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
The bill also proposes funding cuts for these vital conservation programs:
- The North American Wetlands Conservation Act, a highly successful, landscape scale, partnership-driven effort, will be cut to $20M, a 47% reduction from FY11 enacted levels.
- The Land and Water Conservation Fund will be cut to $62M, $256M below current funding levels, and by far the smallest appropriation LWCF has ever received in its 10 year history.
- The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund will be cut to $2.85M, a 95% reduction from FY11 enacted levels.
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Resource Management budget will be cut by 13%, which could affect successful programs like Fish Passage and Partners for Fish and Wildlife.
- The Legacy Roads and Trails Initiative would lose at least $10M from FY11 enacted levels. The Legacy Roads and Trails program funds projects to replace culverts, decommission unneeded roads, and perform critical maintenance on needed roads and trails, creating jobs and improving water quality.
- The State Wildlife Grants program will be cut 64% to $22M. State Wildlife Grants are funds that are utilized by states to protect and restore wildlife habitat. The bill would also increase the cost-sharing requirements with the states, putting greater pressure on already strained state conservation budgets.
The bill will now move before the Appropriations committee for a vote, then to the full floor of the House, and finally to the Senate for consideration. "Trout Unlimited will continue to fight to these excessive funding cuts and ill-conceived policy riders at every opportunity as this legislation progresses through Congress," Moyer said.