“While there are a few bright spots in this funding package, overall this is a deflating indication that Congress is not paying close enough attention to the extinction crisis. They have undercut many crucial conservation programs and stymied forward progress on key issues. Plain and simple this was a missed opportunity for Congress to protect our nation’s critically important biodiversity.”
In a disappointing turn of events for the ever-increasing conservation needs of the U.S ., Congress’ appropriations for the upcoming year fell short, especially on funding for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections and recovery efforts.
“While there are a few bright spots in this funding package, overall this is a deflating indication that Congress is not paying close enough attention to the extinction crisis,” said Mary Beth Beetham, legislative director for Defenders of Wildlife. “They have undercut many crucial conservation programs and stymied forward progress on key issues. Plain and simple this was a missed opportunity for Congress to protect our nation’s critically important biodiversity.”
Among the disappointments in the bill:
Sage-Grouse Rider Included
• The final bill includes the damaging greater sage-grouse rider that has undermined the ESA since 2014. (The initial Senate and House proposals did not include the rider).
Inadequate Funding for the ESA
• The bill fails to take even a small step toward funding the needs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to implement the ESA.
• The $7.7 million increase provided for the ESA is a whopping $54 million below President Biden’s initial request.
Paltry Increase for National Wildlife Refuges
• The increase of $15 million for national wildlife refuges is $65 million short of the president’s request and $117 million less than what is needed to keep pace with the 2010 inflation-adjusted level.
Damaging Border Wall Building to Continue
• The bill failed to rescind the remaining border wall funding allocated during the Trump presidency, likely forcing President Biden to build up to 86 additional miles of wall in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), including through LRGV National Wildlife Refuge.
• Language in the bill directs the Interior and Homeland Security Secretaries to develop mitigation plans for impacts from the wall, but no funding to implement them is provided.
No Money for Forest Service to Recover Imperiled Species
• The bill failed to reestablish dedicated funding for the Forest Service to recover imperiled species.
Among the wins in the bill:
Massive Increase for Endangered Whales
• The bill increases funding for North Atlantic right whale conservation by 320% with a total allocation of $21 million.
• $2 million is allocated to the pilot program testing innovative fishing gear to reduce entanglements and vessel strikes, the two leading causes of death for right whales.
Millions for Bureau of Land Management
• The bill allocates $31 million to the Bureau of Land Management for their threatened and endangered species program—a 44% increase that exceeds the amount requested by the president.
Big Increase for Federal Nonlethal Predator Management Program
• The bill provides $2.5 million for predator-livestock mitigation measures, nearly doubling federal funding for hiring additional nonlethal specialists across the country and addressing other needs .