Thursday, February 01, 2007

Underfunding the National Wildlife Refuge System

While untold billions are being pissed away in the quagmire that is the Iraqi war, many domestic programs are suffering from cuts in funding.  Notable amongst these (and the subject of a previous post) is the National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Interestingly enough, the Service indicates on its website that the Refuge System is home to more than 289 of the nation's 1311 endangered species.

As usual, PEER has the details.

Washington, DC -- Sharp cuts in funding and staffing for the National Wildlife Refuge System are precluding needed conservation work while compromising wildlife law enforcement and visitor safety, according to a new survey of refuge managers released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Bush administration is already implementing double-digit refuge budget cuts in several regions, with further reductions expected to be unveiled next week.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is comprised of more than 100 million acres comprising 545 individual refuges.  Some 40 million people visit each year.  

PEER conducted a survey of refuge managers and received responses from 52% of the 337 total.  (Some managers oversee multiple refuges.)  The results are as follows:

  94% of those responding indicate a that conditions are deteriorating.

  62% of those responding indicate that the System is not accomplishing its mission with 72% stating that staffing is more than 25% below core requirements.

  66% of those responding indicate that consolidation has left some refuges unstaffed.

Could it be that some managers failed to respond to the survey because of fear of agency reprisal?

In any event, the current state of affairs has left parts of the system to a benign neglect.

"The National Wildlife Refuge System has been put on a starvation diet," stated Grady Hocutt, a former long-time refuge manager who directs the PEER refuge program, pointing to recent staff cuts that will leave up to 30% of the refuges in some regions without any personnel, a condition called "Preservation Status." "It is becoming flat out impossible for refuge managers to do their job."  ...

"According to every refuge manager with whom I have spoken, the situation on their refuges is getting much worse," concluded Hocutt, pointing to the results of a similar PEER survey six years ago. "It will be up to the new Congress to reverse this disastrous course."

The full survey results are here (pdf).

Manager proposals for improvement are here (pdf).

I urge you to call your congresscritters, 888 355 3588 or 888 818 6641.  Operators are standing by.  


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