BY JOSEPH GUINTO
PUBLISHED JULY 2007
The White House accelerated funding for its Healthy Lands Initiative this year, allocating some $3 million to the Bureau of Land Management. The money must be spent on restoring or maintaining natural habitats on federal lands, and more will be made available in 2008.
But the sum isn’t nearly what one lobbying group is seeking for refuges. The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), which unites an array of environmental, hunting, and scientific organizations, wants the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System doubled by 2013. CARE has long pushed for more monies to go toward the nation’s wildlife refuges. Yet even with bipartisan support, they’ve won only modest increases. The Fish and Wildlife Service says funding for the refuge system has increased from about $300 million a year in 2001 to $383 million today, but the agency says that’s not enough to keep up with federally mandated raises for employees and deteriorating conditions at many refuges.
CARE agrees. Last spring, the organization released a lengthy report that offered a breakdown of what CARE sees as funding shortfalls for and shabby upkeep at wildlife refuges. The report concludes that the nation’s refuges are at a crisis point. The group wants funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System increased by $55 million next year with continued increases each subsequent year.
Many members of Congress have endorsed CARE’s efforts, including Rep. Jim Saxton (R-New Jersey). Still, at the moment, there is no legislation working its way through the Capitol that would give the refuge system the funding CARE is seeking.