US Congress keeps some conservation funding alive…for now

IFAW’s marine mammal stranding rescue and research program relies heavily on Prescott grants which have been spared in the recent bipartisan compromise to keep the government funded through September.Congress has reached a deal to keep federal agencies funded through September, averting fears of a government shutdown while sending a message to the White House that Washington can still work together. President Trump’s proposed budget had slashed environmental programs across the board, but legislators are delivering a bill to his desk that is much more in line with Obama-era spending levels – and that’s a huge victory for conservation.

Many of IFAW’s priorities were spared by the bipartisan compromise, including:

  • State Department funding to combat wildlife trafficking
  • The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and Office of International Affairs
  • The Multinational Species Conservation Funds
  • The US Agency for International Development’s biodiversity programs
  • Prescott grants, on which our marine mammal stranding rescue program relies heavily

And in light of IFAW’s recent successful partnership with the March For Science, it’s great to see that funding for the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E) went up.

And where budgets were cut, the damage rarely approached the dangerous levels sought by the White House:

  • The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics Control & Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), which has funded IFAW wildlife trade projects in Africa and Asia, was reduced 6%
  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF), a major resource for international conservation, was reduced 12%
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget was only cut 1% with no mandated staff cuts (Trump had asked for a catastrophic 31% reduction)
  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget was cut 1.5%; however, the office that oversees climate research got a small—and unexpected—boost.

It’s not all good news, though. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has played an irreplaceable role in protecting habitat in the US, was starved of much-needed support, and international promises under the Paris Climate Agreement were ignored. Several “riders” (DC-speak for legislators’ pet projects) give money to dirty energy projects and hamstring the EPA’s regulation of ozone pollution, among other bad provisions.

Meanwhile, leaked memos out of the White House indicate that USAID’s funding for next year remains in serious danger, and we haven’t seen any shift in the Administration’s general hostility to environment and conservation programs.

But this deal bought time that we didn’t think we had – five extra months, until the end of the government’s fiscal year in September. Given some doomsday expectations, five months of functioning government is a triumph, and it gives wildlife a fighting chance.

IFAW will keep fighting for them, and you can help by holding your representatives accountable. Congresswomen and men are heading back to their districts for the week of May 7, which gives you a chance to talk to them in person (particularly if they’re holding town-hall meetings). Find your representative here, then call, email, visit or do whatever you can to let them know how important animals, wildlife, and natural places are to you.

The budget deal was a good first step. Now we need to protect this victory and build for the future.

--PL

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Experts

Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, US Country Director
US Country Director
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation