Budget cuts concern conservationists

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WASHINGTON – National Association of Conservation Districts President Bill Wilson recently expressed concern with the lack of funding for conservation programs in the Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2007 budget.
Reductions. “The 2007 budget includes serious reductions for conservation, environmental and natural resources programs,” said Wilson, a rancher-surveyor from Kinta, Oklahoma.
“These programs provide significant benefits to landowners, taxpayers and communities.”
Wilson stressed that the same working lands programs emphasized in the 2002 Farm Bill conservation title are significantly reduced below their authorized levels in the ’07 budget.
New programs delayed. Reduced funding will postpone complete development and implementation of newer programs such as the Conservation Security Program.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is also nearly $300 million below the authorized level for this year, denying farmers and ranchers the tools that they need to comply with environmental rules.
In addition, Wilson noted that USDA’s Small Watershed Protection programs are slated for elimination.
In a recent testimony before Congress in support of the watershed programs, Wilson said “We support coordinating and integrating the available conservation tools to solve natural resource concerns. In the case of the watershed program, the synergy produces substantial benefits by treating the entire watershed’s natural resource concerns.”
Encouraging news. Wilson was encouraged with the budget’s attention to new renewable energy programs.
“It’s good to see an emphasis on renewable energy,” he said. “Energy alternatives have the potential to provide new opportunities for landowners across the country.”
He also applauded the first-time full funding of the Wetlands Reserve Program. The funding level will cover 250,000 acres in 2007, a 100,000 acre increase from fiscal year 2006.
Process continues. As the budget process continues, the National Association of Conservation Districts is committed to working with all involved parties to provide the best possible programs and policies to address America’s natural resource concerns.
“Federal funding is often the catalyst,” Wilson said. “The money can be leveraged with funds from state and local government, and the private sector. Farmers and ranchers make significant investments in matching funds and maintenance costs in private lands conservation,” he said.
“Reductions in federal investment limit what accomplishments are feasible at the ground level.”

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