Back in early March, after the administration’s federal budget proposal was released, I wrote: “Keep in mind a president’s budget proposal is just that: an opening bid.” And about the over-the-top emails we were all getting in reaction to the budget? I said, “You deserve a more thoughtful response.” A lot of you thanked Audubon for offering the perspective that reflected our solutions-oriented approach. In California, I even heard from Orange County’s Sea & Sage chapter that a group of Audubon members read that note around a campfire at the epic wildflower bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park near the Salton Sea. “It gave us hope,” one member said.
Well, I have some good news: the final spending agreement for the rest of the fiscal year provides strong funding for important conservation programs and proves that a bipartisan commitment to conservation still exists—even in a hyperpolarized political environment like the one we have today.
With your help, Audubon successfully urged Congress to protect key places like the Great Lakes, Long Island Sound, and Florida’s Everglades; keeping the Arctic Refuge safe from oil and gas drilling; ensuring science-based and locally-driven implementation of 67 million acres of sage-grouse conservation plans; and increasing support for water conservation and drought relief programs.
Thousands of you took action and this week’s federal budget is the proof that Audubon has been and remains the most effective conservation network in America. For more than a century, Audubon has worked with administrations from both parties to protect birds and the places they need, and we knew we could rely on Audubon members—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—to make their voices heard for birds. A few highlights from the budget that help birds and people:
- EPA’s regional programs, probably the most endangered conservation programs in the original budget proposal, will retain their current funding in the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, while doubling for the Long Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Department of the Interior will receive an increase in support, including $8.9 million in additional funding for sage-grouse conservation plans.
- More support for the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency programs, an important driver of carbon pollution reductions.
- The USDA’s budget includes a whopping $150 million in drought-relief efforts for a beleaguered and arid West—a major victory for millions of people and countless birds.
While these programs and many others will remain properly supported through September 2017, the same interests that inspired the jaw-dropping budget proposal put forward in early March are still at work, looking for opportunities to derail America’s proud legacy of conservation. In fact, we expect a proposal from the Administration by the end of May laying out its vision for what the next round of funding should be. Audubon will always continue fighting to protect important conservation programs, but we’ll need your help.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate what we have accomplished together, but then roll our sleeves back up and remember that we are what hope looks like to a bird. Get involved and take action today.