BHA Federal Policy Update: Week of Mar. 6, 2024

Government Funding Update

Last Friday, Congress voted once again to avoid a government shutdown by extending funding for the federal government through a continuing resolution. A negotiated deal to finalize government funding for the current fiscal year was released over the weekend and is expected to be voted on and sent to the President’s desk this week.

The negotiated government funding deal includes cuts to nearly all agencies and programs, including federal land management agencies. The National Forest System would receive a funding cut of $100 million dollars, the Bureau of Land Management an $81 million cut, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive a $51 million cut. While BHA is strongly discouraged by these cuts, this is marked improvement from the House Interior Appropriations bill passed last July which included an 18% cut to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a 10% cut to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and an 8% cut to the U.S. Forest Service non-fire accounts. A failed amendment by Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY) that would have cut BLM funding by $590 million, or 50%, received 144 votes, all Republicans.

Several policy riders passed in the House bill that would target the conservation of public lands and waters were eliminated from the negotiated funding bill. This includes language that would overturn protections established last year for the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, rollback conservation regulations for America’s Arctic, and preemptively block the BLM Public Lands Rule. One remaining rider would prohibit the listing of the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. BHA has long opposed this rider which undermines scientifically-based wildlife management. The removal of this rider is important for sage-grouse recovery, and science should direct species recovery, not politics

New Federal Legislation to Benefit Habitat, Falls Short of RAWA

Last Thursday, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced the America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act (H.R. 7408). BHA is encouraged by Chairman Westerman’s dedication to supporting the work of state and tribal fish and wildlife management agencies to conserve and restore habitat for at-risk species.

This new legislation would authorize up to $320 million annually, over the next five years, for those agencies to implement much needed conservation projects. However, it fails to provide long-term funding stability for state and tribal conservation efforts. The program ends after five years and does not actually provide any of the authorized funding, which will remain at the whim of the increasingly turbulent annual appropriations process. 

We hope the introduction of this legislation will further bicameral negotiations and increase momentum for meaningful policy to dedicate funding for habitat conservation across the United States. BHA has long advocated for dependable and robust funding for state and tribal management of fish and wildlife through passing the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 1149) into law.

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) presents the greatest legislative opportunity in the history of the United States to fund the conservation of fish and wildlife. It would permanently allocate nearly $1.4 billion of annual dedicated funding for state and tribal fish and wildlife management agencies. In the 117th Congress RAWA was passed by the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote. Led in the Senate by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), RAWA currently has 18 sponsors and cosponsors evenly divided by party.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries held a hearing earlier today on America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act.

About Kaden McArthur

A western hunter and angler at heart, my passion for wild places and wildlife brought me to Washington, DC to work on conservation policy.

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