Bernhardt Budget Starves Wildlife Despite Extinction Crisis

While leaders in Congress warned about the dire state of wildlife in the United States and globally, Acting Interior Secretary and Trump nominee David Bernhardt touted devastating budget cuts to the agencies responsible for wildlife conservation.

If Bernhardt has his way, funding for the Department of Interior (DOI) will be slashed by $2 billion—or 14 percent. While the specific details remain to be seen, a cut of that magnitude is sure to deeply damage critical programs for wildlife conservation, threatening the ability to preserve our natural heritage for generations to come.

If enacted, Trump’s proposed budget will mean fewer resources to:

1. Protect endangered species threatened with extinction

At a time of unprecedented global mass extinction, President Trump’s 2020 budget request would cut funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service—the primary agency responsible for implementing the Endangered Species Act—by $247 million. Funding for ESA implementation is already starved, with hundreds of imperiled species awaiting protections. The proposed cuts threaten to further hamstring our most important law for protecting species in danger of extinction.

2. Prevent the illegal trade of international wildlife

Proposed budget cuts may also affect DOI’s ability to prevent the unsustainable trade of wildlife across international borders. Decreased funding means fewer resources for the agency to fulfill vital responsibilities such as monitoring points of entry for illegal wildlife, spreading consumer awareness, and funding conservation efforts abroad.

3. Preserve essential habitat for native wildlife

DOI manages hundreds of millions of acres of wild landscapes and sensitive ecological habitat. For example, DOI runs the National Wildlife Refuge System, which plays a critical role in ensuring that imperiled species and other wildlife in America are secure and protected. The proposed DOI budget cuts threaten precious wild lands, and the diverse species that call these lands home.

Trump’s skinny budget received swift bipartisan pushback from leaders in Congress. House Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman, Rep. Betty McCollum, and Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Raul Grijalva, rightfully rejected the proposal, calling it “dead on arrival.” And even the ranking member on the Interior-EPA Subcommittee, Rep. David Joyce, said he was "disappointed."  

NRDC looks forward to working with key congressional leaders to push forward an alternative budget that adequately funds key wildlife and other conservation priorities, to preserve our natural heritage for generations to come. 

About the Authors

Nora Apter

Deputy Director, Federal Affairs, Center for Policy Advocacy

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