By Brent A. Rudolph, Ph.D., RGS & AWS Director of Conservation Policy
A number of provisions favorable to hunters and healthy forests await the President’s signature later today…
On December 1, we released a National Update, asking our supporters to ask Congress for a budgetary fix to help the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) deal with out of control annual fire suppression costs. On January 12, we followed up right here on the RGS/AWS blog, identifying a number of provisions that could address the “fire borrowing” problem, including passing the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), H.R. 2862 and S. 1842.
Set down your coffee cup for a moment… Congress heard us!
Late this week, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill, as required to make funds available to individual agencies and programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year. The bill includes other provisions, including the comprehensive wildfire funding fix that was part of WDFA.
President Trump can sign this bill into law later today. He recently said he might not.
Overall, hunters stand to benefit considerably from the omnibus bill. The President’s signature is still required to enact all of these provisions and avert a third government shutdown in the last several months:
- Freeze the level of funds USFS will be required to annually budget for suppression, minimizing the budgetary impact of projected costs that are expected to escalate.
- Use natural disaster funding to make up the difference when annual costs exceed the fixed budget level.
- Provide USFS additional tools to facilitate forest management for wildfire prevention and control.
- Boost overall funding to wildlife agencies and programs, including increases for the Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
- Reauthorize another program RGS/AWS and other partners have asked Congress to address as a critical conservation tool for Western lands – the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). FLTFA reauthorization (as addressed in R. 5133 and S.2185) would direct revenues from the sale of small or low-value federal parcels to fund acquisition of new USFS or DOI lands that provide hunting and fishing access or high-value habitat. Currently, proceeds from such sales simply go to the general treasury, placing public lands at risk of being sold simply to bolster the federal budget.
If anybody is passing by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington, DC today, stop in and let the folks there know you and your fellow hunters would like to see these provisions enacted. Bring a pen with you.
Read the Press Release here . . .