What the Fiscal Cliff Deal Means for Wildlife

Gray wolves (Flickr/Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary)
The short answer is, we’ll find out in March.

First, the good news: The deal includes an extension through the end of 2013 for both the production tax credit (PTC) for onshore wind energy and the investment tax credit (ITC) for offshore wind energy. The wind energy industry had been laying off workers as the tax credits twisted in the wind.

“It’s great to see bipartisan cooperation to extend these critical incentives for America’s fast-growing wind energy industry,” says Adam Kolton, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s National Advocacy Center. “This is exactly the kind of smart, targeted investment that can grow our economy, strengthen our energy security, and protect people and wildlife from the worst impacts of climate change.”

The deal contains some good incentives for low-carbon transportation. As the Washington Post Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer reports, there are tax credits for taking public transportation to work, buying electric scooters, and repairing railroads.

But the bad news is that Congress punted on planned “sequestration” – automatic cuts to discretionary domestic spending, including a range of programs that protect America’s wildlife, public lands, and clean air and water. Congress voted to put off the fiscal cliff’s 8.2%, across-the-board cut for two months. Learn more about how those cuts could impact your community at NWF.org/FiscalCliff.

And that’s just one of several potential fiscal pitfalls on the horizon. Along with the sequestration, the budget continuing resolution is running out, and the federal budget is bumping up against the debt ceiling. All pose a potential challenge in that they’ll be fodder for hard-line extremists to demand more cuts to domestic discretionary programs, including bedrock conservation investments. As the National Wildlife Federation has detailed in previous times of gridlock, a government shutdown wouldn’t just mean shuttered National Parks – it would be a polluter holiday.

Congress also included an extension of the Farm Bill, one that doesn’t measure up in the eyes of the National Wildlife Federation. “Passing a nine month extension delays much needed reforms and cuts a key incentive program for farmers wanting to implement conservation measures on their land,” Julie Sibbing, NWF’s director of agriculture and forestry programs, said in a statement today. “America’s farmers, taxpayers and wildlife deserve more than this Band-Aid fix.”

The deal also doesn’t take on tax incentives for dirty energy, as Big Oil will continue to get billions in taxpayer subsidies.

Take Action

Previous budget cuts have already sliced  to the bone on the vital conservation programs that protect our nation’s endangered species, national wildlife refuges, and natural resources. Ask your members of Congress to protect critical conservation programs in any budget deal.