A Budget Wildlife Can Live On

A dozen bobcat subspecies range across North America. Photo Contest entry by Lori Tambakis.
On Tuesday afternoon, Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray released the Senate budget (for our take on the budget released by the House Budget Committee on Monday, see here.) While the Senate budget still reduces non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending — the spending category that includes virtually all conservation programs — it reflects NWF priorities of protecting Americans while investing in clean energy, preserving our public lands, safeguarding wildlife, and strengthening our water infrastructure.

Moreover, it recognizes the bipartisan legacy of the conservation movement.  As the plan says:

“This is a shared goal that many American leaders, including prominent Republicans, have consistently supported in order to protect the environment.  From President Theodore Roosevelt, who established national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, to President Nixon who created the EPA, to the bipartisan passage of laws to keep our air and water clean, leaders on both sides of the aisle have repeatedly come together to make our land and water healthier for their generation and generations to come.”

Specifically, the Senate budget plan:

  • Invests in our clean energy future by recognizing the value of federal clean air regulation to public health, calling climate change “one of the largest threats to the health of the planet, and therefore the well-being of our families,” investing heavily in research and development of clean energy sources, and funding programs to make homes and offices more energy efficient. It also prepares for climate impacts by funding activities to aid in storm tracking and weather prediction and investing in disaster resiliency across the country.
  • Recognizes the importance of public lands to our robust outdoor recreation economy and conservation legacy by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, enabling the reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, increasing funding for wildfire management and watershed recovery programs, and ensuring continued access to all our national parks.  It also invests in agriculture conservation programs and urges the passage of a Five Year Farm Bill, two measures key to preserving open spaces, and ensures appropriate funding for tribal land management.
  • Ensures the continued safeguarding of our water resources by strongly funding large ecosystem restoration in the Great Lakes, the Everglades, the Upper Mississippi River, the Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Louisiana, the San Francisco Bay Delta, the Puget Sound, and elsewhere, recognizing the value of federal clean water regulation, and promising to update our declining water infrastructure.

It also replaces sequestration, the series of across the board spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.  Replacing the sequester is a crucial step towards ensuring vital conservation programs are funded at adequate levels. In addition, as seen in the chart below, although both the Senate and House budgets cut non-defense discretionary spending below Congressional Budget Office projections—and both keep NDD spending fairly flat over the next ten years—the Senate budget begins with about $100 billion more for NDD funding.

Source: CBO, Senate Budget Committee, House Budget Committee

The Senate Democrats’ budget isn’t perfect, yet it takes huge strides toward making conservation, protecting wildlife, and stopping carbon pollution key federal priorities. This is a promising plan, and we hope that Sen. Murray and the Senate Budget Committee continue to prioritize conservation as they shape budget legislation for fiscal year 2014.

Call your Senator today to make sure they protect wildlife in our federal budget.