Hanging over the celebrations of Thanksgiving this year is the threat of severe funding cuts from the fast approaching Fiscal Cliff. The National Wildlife Refuge System – the largest system of lands and waters protected for wildlife – faces a 10-20% cut to current funding. Such a cut would total approximately $50 – $100 million, but the overall economic impact would be much more. A report released today by the NWRA-Chaired, Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement(CARE), a diverse coalition of sporting, conservation and scientific organizations representing 15 million Americans, warns that unless Congress abandons the automatic Sequestration cuts scheduled to occur in January, the Refuge System could be forced to close refuges and eliminate popular recreational opportunities which many communities depend upon as economic drivers.
The report, Fiscal Cliff Dwellers: America’s Wildlife Refuges on the Edge, highlights the top 10 impacts to the National Wildlife Refuge System should funding cuts of this magnitude be implemented.
1. Closed refuges and vistor centers
2. Loss of hunting and fishing opportunities
3. Volunteers turned away
4. Lost revenue to local economies
5. Increased poaching, vandalism and drug smuggling
6. Lost opportunities for birding and wildlife watching
7. Spread of invasive species
8. Halted habitat restoration and fire management
9. Delayed response to natural disaster devastation
10. Terminating a newly initiated inventory and monitoring program.
“The 560 national wildlife refuges that make up the 150-million-acre Refuge System generate more than $4.2 billion annually for local economies and create nearly 35,000 U.S. jobs annually.” says David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. “Refuges are critical to the health of human communities and to the vitality of local economies, and this is no time to cripple a critical federal program that provides such an impressive return on investment.”
National wildlife refuges attract nearly 45 million visitors each year and can be found in every U.S. state and territory, and are within an hour’s drive of every metropolitan city in the nation. Activities including wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and environmental education programs may be curtailed if America’s refuges go over the Fiscal Cliff.