A Raid on the Fish and Wildlife Trust?

Posted on 10/19/2012

Good News, Bad News, Fun News

Yesterday, an email from a reader at a state wildlife agencies asked if I had seen the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) "sequesterable and exempt budgetary resources" report regarding the Sequestration Transparency Act, part of a deal worked out last year to end the ongoing debt-ceiling crisis.

I hadn't. There's no possible way for anyone to be read-in on everything distributed from DC. But I got a copy of the report - and I didn't like what I found.

No one else who spends dollars taxed (voluntarily) under either the Pittman-Robertson or Dingell-Johnson acts will, either. The reason? Sequestration is a fancy word for simply taking funds from existing programs under the guise of reducing the federal deficit.

Under the Budget Control Act of 201, the OMB is required to enact a plan (The Sequestration Transparency Act) to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion dollars should the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction fail to propose-and Congress enact- a deficit reduction plan.

As we know, there's no budget agreement - and none on the horizon. So...sequestration is the mandated next step.

Basically, the government takes (sequesters) a portion of allocated funds - supposedly across the board - to reduce the deficit. As described by the OMB, "Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument." It is also described as "not the responsible way for our Nation to achieve deficit reduction."

It's a pre-action casualty list for mandated funding cuts. It is the nuclear option for deficit reduction.

There's no way to plan for the sort of cuts described in the report.

Federal aid for wildlife restoration, state wildlife grants, the Sport Fishing Restoration Fund and the National Park Service will all be cut- significantly. The National Park Service alone stands to lose more than $183 million in operating funds.

To get some perspective on the looming prospect, I reached out to Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for their sense of what sequestration might actually mean.

Neither painted a pretty picture.

"Basically," says Crane, "OMB's sequestering proposal is a raid on the Fish and Wildlife Trust."

And, Crane pointed out, the "raid" comes in the year we celebrate the seventy-fifty anniversary of the fund that has been instrumental in protecting America's wildlife and wild places.

That's not a pretty picture. The AFWA's Ron Regan didn't do anything to lighten the mood.

"We're looking at big cuts," he said, "and the Trust doesn't seem to be a legitimate candidate for sequestration." As he pointed out, this "trust" is essentially a bond not to use collected funds for anything other than their intended purpose.

Both Crane and Regan say meetings are underway to look at all possible "remedies". Generally, "remedy" means one of two things: legal action to force a halt to the proposed action, or legislative action to change the sequestration rules. Legal action isn't always a good option, but legislative actions, especially when they involve money, don't happen overnight.

Whatever the various outdoor organizations decide as their best course of action, we'd better all start paying attention- and let our elected officials in Washington know we're not going to sit still while the Fish and Wildlife Trust gets the same treatment as the Social Security Trust fund.

Our contributions are voluntary, but our voicing our dissent is mandatory.

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