Monday, March 19, 2007

No Refuge

While millions disappear daily into the Iraqi quagmire, some domestic programs are collapsing.  One of these, the National Wildlife Refuge system, has previously indicated that the worst problems are in the southeastern quadrant.  Now, it seems that system difficulties are to be experienced with large cuts nationwide.

ENS Link

WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2007 (ENS) - In an attempt to cope with a huge budget backlog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is cutting and redeploying staff in the National Wildlife Refuge System across the Southwest and the Pacific Regions. Reductions in services will impact refuges in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Guam and several Pacific islands.

As a result of the cuts, environmental education programs for school children will be eliminated, there will be cuts in endangered species recovery programs, habitat management and law enforcement will be diminished.

Some refuges will be left entirely unstaffed as a result of permanent staff reductions.

According to the workforce plan that outlines the cuts, the Pacific region is leaving 32 positions vacant and will eliminate another 17 jobs by fiscal year 2009, resulting in a total of 49 eliminated positions. Because of these staffing cuts, 28 refuges, or 44 percent of the refuges in the region, will remain completely unstaffed and 21 refuges, or one-third of the refuges in the region, will experience further reductions.

The pacifice region, comprised of some 3.5 million acres of refuge (64 individual refuges), will go virtually without any law enforcement.

Only six full-time law enforcement staff will remain in the entire Pacific region.

Umm, for those mathematically challenged bloggers, that works out to more than one half million acres per individual.

And yet the cost of maintaining wildlife refuges is a fraction of national park expenditures.

Refuges are currently managed at a cost of less than $4 per acre. By comparison, the National Park System receives more than $20 per acre for management.

It's certainly not for lack of visitors.

On the 16,000 acre Tishomingo Refuge, which receives more than 200,000 annual visitors, there will only be one law enforcement officer who will split his or her time with Hagerman Refuge in Texas, impacting resource protection and visitor safety.

But war profiteers must get what's due to them, wildlife or not.  Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

"Wildlife refuges are national treasures, home to some of our nation's most imperiled wildlife and critical to ensuring our nation's waterfowl remains healthy and abundant," said Schlickeisen. "Neglecting these refuges and cutting back on staff, services and programs puts the mission of the refuge system at risk. Congress needs to fund the refuge system and continue to invest in this country's wildlife heritage."

Your considerable disgust can be expressed here, and to your legislators.  


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