BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — If the federal government’s sequestration scheme to reduce spending continues as originally planned, millions of dollars will be withheld from the states for managing fish and wildlife.
“I’m very sad that this is happening, and I’m disappointed that leaders in our government can’t work together to fix this,” said Noreen Clough, national conservation director for B.A.S.S. and former Southeast Region director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It is going to hurt resource management by limiting what the state and federal agencies can do.”
The current version of sequestration, which imposes about $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts, went into effect March 1.
State fisheries programs are being impacted, not because of federal spending cuts but because apportionments from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program will be withheld, courtesy of poorly written legislation, Clough noted.
“It’s a quirk in the language,” she explained. “The money is protected from being diverted, but there’s no protection from limiting apportionments.”
Although the funds are available, having been collected from excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear and motorboat fuel and pledged to the states for fish and wildlife management, 5.1 percent of it will be held back. That amounts to $46.2 million.
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is working to free those funds for the states. “Please know that we continue to pursue an exemption for the trust funds,” Jen Mock Schaeffer, government affairs director, told state fish and wildlife directors.
As of right now, Texas looks to be the hardest hit, losing $2.2 million. Alaska will be denied $2.1 million, and California, $1.9 million. Every state will lose at least $300,000.
Additionally, sequestration’s cut to the rate of growth for environmental programs could result in the states losing more than $100 million in grants and other assistance for protecting water and air from hazardous wastes, pesticides and other pollutants. California and New York each could be deprived of more than $12 million.
“I’m really disappointed that people haven’t picked up on the fact that what’s happening will impact resource management,” Clough said. “The tentacles of sequestration go way beyond what’s reported in the news.”