No Surprises: Trump’s “Fat Cat” Budget Starves Wildlife

President Trump’s proposed budget would threaten wildlife by opening up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and gutting essential funding for species and habitat conservation across the country and around the world.

Matthew Studebaker

As predicted when the Trump administration released its “skinny budget” outline back in March, the President’s proposed budget would be devastating for our nation’s wildlife.

Specifically, President Trump has proposed a 13 percent cut in 2018 discretionary spending for the Fish and Wildlife Service, our nation’s primary conservation agency. In doing so, the proposed budget threatens to undermine critical wildlife conservation work and harm already imperiled species. Among the most destructive proposals are those to:

  • Gut funding for the Cooperative Endangered Species Fund by 64 percent – The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund provides essential grant funding to States and Territories for species and habitat conservation actions, including habitat acquisition, conservation planning, habitat restoration, research, and education.
  • Slash the Multinational Species Conservation Fund by 18 percent – This Fund provides critical financial and technical assistance to help government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities provide protections for some of the world’s most threatened species, including African and Asian elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes, and marine turtles. Without this support, vulnerable populations will continue to decline, which could ultimately result in the extinction of these species.
  • Cut funding for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants by 13 percent – The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program provides funding to help States and Tribes develop and implement programs to benefit fish and wildlife and their habitat. For the past 16 years, this grant program has provided State fish and wildlife agencies a stable Federal funding source, and has helped establish a nationwide strategy to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered.
  • Threaten the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by opening it to oil drilling – The Arctic Refuge is home to some of the most diverse and spectacular wildlife in the arctic, including polar bears, gray wolves, moose, caribou, gray whales, beluga whales, walruses, and more than 200 migratory and resident bird species.

While the dangers of these proposals should be self-evident, it seems that some leaders in government may need a refresher on why it is so critical that the budget support wildlife conservation:

Wildlife conservation is a benefit—not a hindrance—to our economy

Perhaps one of the stranger aspects of the Trump administration’s proposal is its budget justification, which actually emphasizes the importance of wildlife conservation for jobs and the economy. The justification rightfully quotes the significant economic contributions of wildlife-associated recreation… but then goes on to cut more than $87 million from the Fish and Wildlife Service resource management account.  

Funding to protect imperiled species is already starved

It is important to emphasize that any cuts to endangered species management efforts are not only uncalled for; they’re irresponsible. More than 400 U.S. species listed under the Endangered Species Act currently do not have recovery plans, and the Fish and Wildlife Service already receives less than 25 percent of the funding it needs to implement the recovery plans that do exist. President Trump’s proposed budget cuts will only further hinder the agency’s ability to make listing determinations, develop plans to recover species, and enforce the Endangered Species Act.

Extinction is forever

These proposals threaten our ability to protect imperiled species and their habitat from permanent extinction. The actions we take today will have a lasting impact on our nation’s natural heritage, and will determine whether or not future generations have the same opportunities to experience the majestic wildlife that exists in our country today. Members of Congress must not merely try to compromise on the Trump administration’s proposals; they must flatly reject them.

About the Authors

Nora Apter

Legislative Advocate, Government Affairs

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