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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Editorials

Attack on outdoors recreation

Published:

It is discouraging that the U.S. House is seeking to gut key conservation programs that protect wildlife and the outdoors industry.

Republican representatives should see it is economically foolish to slash conservation funding that also produces jobs and profits.

In 2011, hunters and anglers spent $90 billion, according to the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation. That, as the foundation points out, was more than global sales of Apple’s iPhone and iPad the same year. Outdoor recreation also generates more than 6 million jobs.

Yet the House appropriations bill has targeted a series of effective environmental programs that wisely leverage federal dollars, using them as matching grants to state and local governments and private organizations.

Such efforts protect wildlife without restricting landowners’ rights.

For instance, the House GOP would eliminate funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides matching grants to organizations and individuals to protect wetlands habitat, particularly for migratory waterfowl, in the United States and Canada.

This is critical for ducks — and duck hunters. The act provides a financial incentive for landowners to preserve wetlands that otherwise would be put into agricultural production or developed.

The program has contributed to the preservation of more than 25 million acres of habitat.

Eliminate it, and duck numbers will plummet, as will the number of duck hunters.

The House budget also eliminates funding for other conservation-grant programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which contributes to the acquisition and maintenance of valuable environmental lands, including national parks.

Fiscal austerity, to be sure, is necessary to put the federal government’s financial house in order. But members of Congress should recognize these conservation programs’ strong return on investment.

Abandoning cost-efficient efforts that sustain both natural resources and the outdoors industry makes little economic sense and should be stopped.

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