May 14, 2014
You’ve probably read news articles about federal budget cuts for outdoor recreation and conservation. However, the true effects of those cuts don’t sink in until you drive up to a place where you want to go fishing or take the family for a picnic and find the gate’s closed.
In the federal budget “Conservation Funding” is defined as covering “Natural Resources and Environment.” That includes operating money for agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and for the programs these agencies administer.
In 1977, Conservation Funding was close to 2.75 percent of the government’s total budget. In 2013, it’s estimated that all federal spending for domestic land, water, ocean, fish, and wildlife programs constituted only 1.02 percent of the budget, and it will continue to decline in the future unless the process is reversed.
Scanning the Internet for more information on this is like a chasing quail through a swamp. It turns out that some agencies are getting more money overall, but others are getting less, and certain critical areas are getting a lot less funding. That there are budget cuts for outdoor recreation-related agencies is surprising, as outdoor recreation is growing. According to an Outdoor Industry Association report, more than 140 million Americans engage in outdoor activities each year, delivering $646 billion to the economy and supporting 6.1 million domestic jobs. This is more than the pharmaceutical industry ($331 billion), gasoline and other fuels ($354 billion), and motor vehicles and parts ($40 billion).
Overall, about 45 percent of the US population participates in outdoor recreation, up from a decade or two ago, but that percentage is down from 40 to 50 years ago. However, the numbers appear to be increasing. Three million more people participated in outdoor recreation for the first time last year.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership points to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as one of the worst problem areas. Each year Congress is authorized to deposit $900 million in the LWCF account of the federal treasury. However, over the years more than $17 billion of LWCF funds has been diverted by Congress into the general revenue stream (note that the president’s budget called for no cuts in the LWCF this year).
The Forest Service is getting more money in general, but it still must tighten its belt to fight fires. The Forest Service’s $2 billion-a-year firefighting budget that is the bulk of the federal effort, has been reduced by five percent, a cut that results in 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last year. The Interior Department’s $37.5 million reduction has meant 100 fewer seasonal firefighter positions and other lost jobs as well.
Continue reading at: http://www.outdoorhub.com/stories/federal-budget-cuts-mean-outdoor-recreation/