During his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump presided over an administration that has effectively killed the Clean Water Rule—which, to anglers, is quite possibly the single most important piece of legislation in existence—gleefully signed off on the rollback of the Stream Protection Rule, instructed the BLM to prioritize energy extraction over all other activities, initiated a review of 27 of our national monuments with the goal of opening up parts of those public lands to oil and gas development and announced plans to defund the EPA. Any one of these actions, taken solely on their own merit, can be categorized as an attack on sportsmen. Taken as a whole, they are an outright assault.
Trump’s budget proposal, revealed this week, is not just the latest measure in that assault, but one of the most significant. Not only does Trump’s budget include dramatic cuts to the Department of the Interior (1.4 billion), EPA (2.6 billion) and USDA (4.6 billion) and slash funding to programs important to public lands, it takes aim at one of our country’s most beloved and most successful conservation programs—the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—with a staggering 84 percent budget cut.
With Trump’s vision for our nation’s public lands, its rivers and streams, its sagebrush and steppe, its bayous and shorelines increasingly laid bare, it is becoming increasingly difficult for sportsmen that have supported Donald Trump and his administration—buoyed by Trump’s pledges to fight for public lands and by his sons’ affinity for hunting and fishing—to live in denial. For sportsmen that feared Trump taking office, it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of all the things that seem to be falling apart.
The move to target the LWCF, a program celebrated by all but the most draconian of political operatives, is one that came as a surprise even to some of Trump's most passionate detractors. As Ty Hansen wrote in an earlier piece in Hatch Magazine, the LWCF is one of America’s greatest success stories. Hansen notes,
The Land and Water Conservation Fund—which is funded almost entirely from royalties charged on offshore oil and gas leases which are then invested in onshore conservation projects—is right up there with the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act as one of the best accomplishments in the history of the United States Congress. It literally costs the American taxpayer nothing, but contributes billions of dollars every year in revenue to local communities that benefit from LWCF projects.
Communities in every single state in the union have benefitted directly from projects funded by the LWCF, projects that build and restore infrastructure at national parks, improve hunting, fishing and other access on public lands, protect vital fish and game habitat, restore streams and rivers and more. Much more.
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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) president and CEO Land Tawney lashed out at the cuts.
“The administration’s budget starves our public lands of critical funding,” said Tawney. “The cuts they would levy on our natural resource agencies, resource professionals and key programs are unprecedented and far-reaching in scope: Not only would they profoundly diminish our lands and waters, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor opportunities; they also would hobble America’s potent outdoors economy – currently $887 billion strong, sustainable and growing.”
BHA, along with many other groups representing sportsmen, has been supportive of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s leadership, despite repeated actions by Zinke that have raised significant concerns among many hunters and anglers. In his statement, Tawney acknowledged this fact, stating that “on his first day at Interior, Secretary Zinke signed a secretarial order calling for the expansion of public access and hunting and fishing opportunities on U.S. public lands – an action we applauded. Today, only weeks later, we are confused by the drastic cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has done more to facilitate public access opportunities to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy the great outdoors than any other federal program in history. The proposed budget flies in the face of what sportsmen and women need and want most: access.”