The Arizona Game & Fish Department is working to “make constituents aware of drastic funding cuts to wildlife conservation programs contained in the federal Interior & Environment spending bill for Fiscal Year 2012,” noting that these cuts “could have a significant negative impact on wildlife management in Arizona.”
Some of the programs that will be impacted by potential cuts include the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act), the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
In light of all the issues with the federal budget, readers might wonder why they should care about a handful of conservation programs. After all, something has to give, right? However, conservation programs are often as important to humans and to local economies as they are to the wildlife that benefits from the programs.
In the wake of this year’s devastating wildland fires that destroyed homes and property as well as wildlife habitat, it should be evident that, often, what is good for wildlife is also good for people. Fire management and prescribed burns can protect homeowners as well as critical habitat. With respect to the proposed cuts to these programs, protection and restoration of wetlands not only provides habitat for birds and other creatures, it mitigates the damages of flooding to human communities. Conservation of habitat and wild places is also crucial to tourism in a state that’s well known for its scenic beauty, birding and outdoor recreation opportunities. Local communities impacted by the recent fires are working to reopen their parks and land to visitors as quickly as possible in hopes of economic improvement. The destruction of these programs through lack of funding won’t char the landscape or leave other visibly obvious signs, but the long-term impact could be even more devastating not only to conservation efforts but to local economies in the state.
Arizona Game & Fish Department noted that “State wildlife agency leadership and experience have generated some of Arizona’s most successful and productive wildlife programs,” and they are concerned :that “the drastic and disproportionate funding reductions for the aforementioned programs jeopardize the success story by eliminating state programs and transferring the responsibility for much of Arizona’s wildlife future to already seriously overburdened federal agencies.”
Below is an overview of some of the specific programs that are in danger of being cut and a little bit about what those programs do, as well as how to get in touch with our representatives in Congress.
The State Wildlife Grants (SWG) would receive 64 percent less funding than in fiscal year 2011, and a 75 percent reduction compared to fiscal year 2010. This would mean $22 million as opposed to $90 million in 2010. Congress created the State Wildlife Grants program in 2000 in an effort to “assist states with their voluntary and proactive efforts to protect the more than 12,000 at-risk wildlife species around the U.S. from becoming endangered.” In Arizona, these funds are matched with money from the Heritage Fund (raised by state lottery proceeds). These combined funds allow monitoring and management of “at-risk wildlife populations,” as well as the management and restoration of critical habitat, and prevention of further decline of species. “Many species, including bald eagles, Sonoran pronghorn, black-footed ferrets, Chirichua leopard frogs…have benefitted from SWG funding. These funds enable Arizona to be proactive, not reactive.”
Funding for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act) would be slashed by 95.2 percent ($2.85 million compared to $59.9 million in fiscal year 2011). This Section 6 funding “provides grants to states to participate in a wide array of voluntary conservation projects for candidate, proposed and listed species. The program provides funding for species and habitat conservation actions on non-federal land” as well as providing funding to meet the federal mandate for states and federal government to work cooperatively to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Arizona’s ability to adequately participate in important land use and conservation decisions.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act would receive $17.4 million less in fiscal year 2012 ($20 million compared to $37.4 million). This program matters to Arizona because it provides matching grants to individuals and organizations “that have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects for the benefit of wetlands-associated migratory birds and other wildlife.” According to Arizona Game and Fish Department, “eliminating funding will exacerbate declines of migratory birds and other fish and wildlife dependent on wetlands.”
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act would be “100 percent defunded from its FY 2011 level of $3.99 million.” Arizona is well-known as a mecca for birders. “Elimination of this funding would negatively impact projects that support the wintering grounds of neotropical birds that are found in Arizona. Many of these birds, such as the elegant trogon or blue-throated hummingbird, are seen nowhere else in the United States and draw bird watchers from all over the world to Arizona, enhancing local economies.”
* View a copy of the Arizona Game & Fish Department’s letter to Arizona’s representatives in the U.S. House.
* Contact your representative in Congress.
* Link to fact sheets on the SWG, Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grants, and NAWCA programs