"Chairman Norman Dicks and his subcommittee this week championed the best funding bill Americans have seen for the environment in a very long time. We are delighted that the new leadership on the Appropriations Committee has a commitment to providing Americans with clean air, water, open spaces and habitat for an ever shrinking wildlife population."
The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the EPA, under the guidance of Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), released the Fiscal Year 2008 budget for the Department of Interior and the EPA. The legislation is largely seen as the best funding bill for the environment and conservation in over a decade. Accounts and agencies that have suffered severely over the last several years have now received funding amounts that allow them to address their unmet needs and also meet public demand.
The most impressive increase came to the National Wildlife Refuge System. Over the last several years the Refuge system has lost nearly 250 employees and suffered many temporary closures of Refuges. The subcommittee increased the Refuge operating budget by more than $50 million increasing the funding to $451 million, over $55 million above the White House request. Additionally, important programs like the Neotropical Migratory Bird Act received full funding at $5 million, the Long Island Sound Restoration Act received $10 million, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund received $268 million for land acquisition, with $50 million of those monies going to the states for local projects, an account that the Bush Administration proposed to completely defund in their budget request.
The bill exceeds the Administration's request in several key programs including:
-- $56 million over the administration's requested amount for the National Wildlife Refuge System–the largest increase in the refuge system's history
-- $6 million over the administration's requested amount for protection of endangered species
-- $148 million over the administration's requested amount for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
-- $6 million over the administration's requested amount for grants to conserve endangered species around the globe
-- $16 million over the administration's requested amount for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants
-- $19 million over the administration's requested amount for the Forest Service's wildlife and fish habitat program.
The bill also creates and funds a science based task force to address adaptation and mitigation needs associated with global warming.
From here, the bill proceeds to the full committee for consideration, likely in early June.