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Sportsmen Criticize Proposed House Cuts to Farm Bill Conservation Programs

WASHINGTON – As House appropriators deliberate the Department of Agriculture’s budget for fiscal year 2012, sportsmen are sharply criticizing cuts proposed for Farm Bill conservation programs instrumental to fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced.

The House Appropriations Committee is meeting this afternoon to consider more than a billion dollars in reductions to mandatory conservation programs agreed to last week by the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Conservation programs facing drastic cuts include the following:

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Full Letter Below:

May 31, 2011

Dear Member of Congress,
For a quarter century, the US Department of Agriculture has effectively used Farm Bill conservation programs to assist farmers and landowners in running economically sustainable operations while conserving important fish and wildlife habitat, safeguarding clean air and water, stabilizing topsoil and enhancing recreational opportunities on private lands. These programs are successful, cost‐efficient and highly popular with landowners, as well as hunters and anglers.
However, deep cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs have recently been proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. These cuts would come in addition to the $500 million in reductions that Farm Bill conservation accounts suffered as a result of the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process. Together, these cuts put the future viability of those programs at great risk. The undersigned conservation organizations representing millions of sportsmen and conservationists across all 50 states, write in opposition to these proposed cuts and reaffirm our strong support of these critical private lands conservation programs.
Farmers are currently in the process of planting record acreages of crops. Now more than ever federal farm policy must help to assure that we maintain a workable balance between production and conservation, and this is exactly the result Farm Bill conservation programs have achieved over the past 25 years. With reasonable levels of funding the future for farmers and private lands will be a bright one.
While virtually every Farm Bill conservation program has been slated for a major reduction in the FY2012 budget proposal, including highly successful programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), one program in particular the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive program (VPA/HIP), which expands economically important hunting and angling opportunities on private lands would be completely defunded. Reducing or eliminating these popular programs would serve only to stifle rural economies and squander away 25 years of taxpayer investment in soil, water, and wildlife.
Hunting and angling combine to contribute tens of billions of dollars to rural communities and the national economy. Farm Bill conservation programs provide income to producers and the necessary fish and wildlife habitat so that sportsmen can enjoy quality experiences afield. As such, these programs have the strong support of those in the hunting and fishing community and the businesses that cater to them. We hope to work with you to guide these and other important conservation programs towards a robust future that strengthens their collective ability to deliver fish and wildlife benefits, while providing sustainable economic opportunities to the nation’s farmers.

American Sportfishing Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Delta Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited
Izaak Walton League of America
National Bobwhite Technical Committee
Pheasants Forever
Quail Forever
Quail Unlimited
The Nature Conservancy
The Wildlife Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Trout Unlimited
Wildlife Management Institute