Thursday, June 10, 2010

CARE to Obama: Take Wildlife Refuge Cuts Off the Table

/PRNewswire/ -- In a letter delivered to President Obama today, a national coalition of wildlife conservation and sporting organizations has asked the President to take cuts to the National Wildlife Refuge System's budget off the table as he considers cutting federal agency spending by five percent in FY 2012. The coalition called the proposed cuts "wrong and inappropriate" at a time when refuges and the species they protect are dealing with potentially one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It is neither the time nor the place to propose funding cuts for the National Wildlife Refuge System or for the Fish and Wildlife Service," said Evan Hirsche, Chair of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). "Agencies are already spread thin responding to the belching oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and the President's proposed five percent budget cut would have dire consequences in the Refuge System's ability to help wildlife recover. The survival of species like the brown pelican, which was only recently removed from the endangered species list, is now looking more bleak than it did just a year ago."

National wildlife refuges protect a host of species that are being decimated in the Gulf of Mexico, including sea turtles, manatees and numerous migratory birds. The FWS is projecting that 20% of its nationwide staff will be deployed to the Gulf at some point to address the ongoing crisis, making it difficult for the agency to address ongoing refuge needs or future emergencies such as floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. Should the proposed funding cuts occur, the problems will be magnified ten-fold. Understaffed wildlife refuges will be forced to make difficult decisions to cut programs that protect wildlife, such as vital scientific monitoring programs. Ultimately, the cuts will compromise the System's congressionally mandated conservation mission.

The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a diverse coalition of 22 conservation, sporting, and scientific organizations representing more than 15 million members and supporters. According to a recent CARE report on Refuge System funding needs, the Refuge System currently faces a $3.7 billion operations and maintenance backlog.

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