After his confirmation earlier this month, Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, expressed strong displeasure with what was anticipated to be a 10 percent budget cut to the Department of the Interior (DOI). The Secretary disagreed so strongly with the rumored cuts that he vowed to fight to ensure his agency received adequate funding. Unfortunately for us, he apparently lost that battle.
If President Trump has his way, DOI would be cut by even more than initially rumored. The proposed budget slashes nearly $2 billion—or 12 percent—from DOI’s budget. While the specific details remain to be seen, a cut of that magnitude (and driven by right-wing ideology) 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 less money and fewer resources to fulfill key DOI duties such as:
1. Protecting endangered species threatened with extinction
The DOI is one of the principal agencies charged with the execution of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While incredibly successful (99% effective) and extraordinarily popular (90% of Americans support), funding for ESA implementation is already starved, with hundreds of imperiled species awaiting protections. The proposed DOI budget cuts will only further hinder the agency’s ability to make ESA listing determinations, develop plans to recover species, and enforce the ESA.
2. Preventing 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 for DOI means fewer resources for the agency to fulfill responsibilities such as monitoring points of entry for illegal wildlife, spreading consumer awareness, training foreign law enforcement to protect species from poachers and the like, and funding conservation efforts abroad.
3. Preserving refuges and other 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 the security of our precious wild lands—and the diverse species that call these lands home.
As Americans, we have an obligation to ensure future generations can enjoy our country’s natural heritage—including wildlife and wild lands. The massive budget cuts pushed by Trump and his GOP allies will severely hinder, if not totally preclude, our ability to fulfill that responsibility. It’s now up to our representatives in Congress to respond to Trump’s proposed budget; they must reject it.