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, totaling approximately $50 - $100 million - but the overall economic impact would be much more. A report released today by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a diverse coalition of sporting, conservation and scientific organizations (including Marine Conservation Institute), 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 visitor 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; and
10. Terminating a newly initiated inventory and monitoring program.
Marine Conservation Institute is particularly concerned about the cuts' impacts on the recently established marine national monuments. The refuge portions of the four Pacific marine national monuments constitute one-third of the refuge system; yet, funding to safeguard these national treasures has not followed suit. The Pacific marine national monuments were designated to protect valuable coral reefs, and essential habitat for an estimated 14 million seabirds and many threatened and endangered marine species. “Illegal trespass has already damaged coral reefs and other marine wildlife by way of vessel groundings and introducing invasive species within the monuments,” stated Marine Conservation Institute President, Lance Morgan, Ph.D. “Continued budget cuts to the System will devastate current efforts to protect and manage these areas effectively."
So, let your Congressperson know that you are concerned about the impacts to our natural resources as our America’s refuges go over the Fiscal Cliff.