Hunter, anglers, outdoor groups ask Congress to restore habitat funding

More than 1,600 organizations representing tens of millions of birders, hikers, hunters, anglers, boaters and other conservationists  delivered a collective letter to congressional appropriators today urging them to restore funding to popular fish and wildlife conservation grant programs, according to the Teaming With Wildlife coalition.

The letter is in response to efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to zero out funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, Forest Legacy Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund next fiscal year.

A drake mallard rises from a wetland. (News Tribune file)

These grant-based programs have restored and protected millions of acres of habitat and supported thousands of projects to combat threats to fish and wildlife survival, including invasive species, according to Teaming With Wildlife officials.

“It’s a matter of invest now or U.S. taxpayers will pay even more later,” said Dan Forster, president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and director of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division. “It can cost millions of dollars to recover one single endangered species. The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program is the only federal program providing funding to states and their partners to conserve the more than 12,000 fish and wildlife species that are at risk of landing on the endangered species list.”

Investments in natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation total less than 1 percent of all discretionary federal spending, according to Teaming With Wildlife. However, over the last several fiscal years, the conservation programs that appropriators propose to defund have already been reduced by more than 25 percent.

Some of the nation’s most imperiled habitats, such as wetlands, are being restored through the vulnerable conservation grant programs, the group said.

A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 90 million U.S. residents age16 years and older participate in wildlife-related recreational activities annually. Conservation grant programs also deliver some of the most direct benefits to the more than 70 million Americans who spend approximately $55 billion each year on watching and feeding birds, Teaming With Wildlife officials say.

The Teaming With Wildlife Coalition coordinated the letter to Congressional appropriators on behalf of the 800-plus signatory groups and coalitions that represent more than 1,600 organizations.

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