President Trump submitted his 2018 budget proposal on Monday, and it was far from wildlife-friendly. Advocates immediately criticized the so-called “Taxpayer First Budget,” pointing out that it slashes funding and changes priorities for many critical conservation programs.
The proposals, which are not final, include:
- A 6 percent reduction in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget, and, according to numbers provided by the Service, around a 5.3 percent decrease in funding for recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act. (That latter number is a story in itself, as it reflects last year’s tumultuous budget process.)
- A 32-percent reduction in foreign-assistance funds, potentially including some programs to combat wildlife trafficking and related organized crime. “American security and global leadership depends on equal parts defense, diplomacy and development,” Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said about the cuts in a prepared release. “Without strong support for all three, the world is a more dangerous place.”
- The elimination of the Marine Mammal Commission, a 45-year-old program that supports whales, seals, manatees, polar bears and other species — all at a cost of just 1 cent per taxpayer per year. As commission chair Daryl J. Boness wrote in a prepared release: “The proposed elimination of the Commission comes at a time when decades of marine stewardship are achieving success because of a strong American environmental ethic that balances economic needs with the conservation of our natural resources. We are loyal to our Congressional mandate to responsibly manage and protect marine mammals and their ecosystems, which are vital to our economy, prosperity, and future.”
- Opening up the biodiversity-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing. ANWR, as it’s sometimes better known, is home of more than 200 bird species and a host of other wildlife. Environmental activists have long opposed such drilling efforts, but they remain in favor among Alaska’s Republican officials.
- And finally, a 31 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency, which would affect numerous programs and policies designed to protect all of the species on the planet from climate change, pollution, etc.
Of course, none of this is written in stone. President Trump’s budget proposal is just one step in a long process to fund the federal government for the coming year. Figuring out which of these cuts will remain at the end of that process will take weeks, if not months. The Revelator will be watching.