WASHINGTON – Late last night, Congress passed an appropriations package for fiscal year 2022 that includes increased spending for critical conservation and research programs that benefit birds and people. Unfortunately, the bill also includes harmful policy provisions and fails to make sufficient investments to address climate change and the ongoing biodiversity crisis. After four years of flat or negative spending on many conservation programs, the FY22 bill makes progress in reinvigorating many federal agencies and offices. Audubon hopes Congress continues to see conservation funding as a critical component of healthy communities.
“After lengthy negotiations, we are glad that Congress is advancing many critical programs that will protect and restore the places and resources birds need the most,” said Justin Stokes, deputy chief conservation officer, National Audubon Society. “But more must be done to take meaningful action on climate change and remove harmful provisions that undermine conservation and science.”
The budget includes funding increases for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, an important program to spur clean energy innovation. Investments were also made in working lands and natural climate solutions, including climate smart agriculture, reforestation, conservation operations, and agricultural research.
“Working lands are important to birds and people,” said Melinda Cep, vice president of natural solutions and working lands, National Audubon Society. “These same places can be part of the climate solution, so helping agriculture and forestry play a part in a cleaner future is a smart investment.”
Federal spending was slightly increased for programs focused on coastal and freshwater ecosystem restoration, fisheries management, and migratory bird conservation. This includes restoration initiatives in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River Basin, Everglades, and other important ecosystems that benefit birds, other wildlife, and communities. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that manage migratory birds and provide grants for migratory bird conservation saw minor increases, though not to levels needed to help bring birds back from population declines.
“These conservation projects are tangible, science-based solutions to recover our bird populations, provide cleaner water and air, and increase resilience for communities facing more frequent and severe catastrophic weather events,” said Stokes. “Clean water and healthy ecosystems should not be subject to partisan negotiations – we urge Congress to continue to increase funding for these extremely popular, bipartisan programs.”
Congress also approved an appropriation of no less than $1.25 million for the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a new program to assess and monitor the hydrology of saline lakes in the Great Basin and the migratory birds and other wildlife dependent on those habitats. Amidst historic drought conditions across the West, this is welcome funding that will kickstart efforts needed to benefit birds and salt lake habitats. Read more from Audubon’s Western Water team here.
While this year’s spending bill increases funding for Greater Sage-Grouse conservation, it undercuts science by continuing to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from considering Greater Sage-Grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rider continues to set a very concerning precedent for politically motivated interventions by Congress in the USFWS’s mission to assess the biological status of a species and whether protection under the ESA is warranted.
“This short-sighted directive is like a burrowing tick on federal appropriations,” said Stokes. “With an 80 percent population decline since 1965, this bird and sagebrush country need swift and meaningful action by the administration, Congress, and other elected officials.”
Congress has already begun discussing the fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills, and Audubon will continue pushing for greater investments in a number of priorities for birds, people, and the places we need. A full report with those priorities will be published in the coming weeks.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.
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