The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a 2012 funding bill that includes a staggering $726 million in cuts to federal conservation programs. Many important programs which focus on habitat protection, soil quality and water quality received damaging budget cuts. In some cases, programs were eliminated entirely. These recent cuts are of particular importance to fisherman and other sportsmen, as many of the damaged or eliminated programs were designed not only to protect habitat but to provide and encourage fishing, hunting and other recreational activities.
While the House version of the 2012 spending bill would cut programs more sharply, by 19%, the Senate bill cuts conservation programs by 12%. Important habitat protection programs such as wetlands protection were cut by 29%. According to the National Wildlife Federation, funding for the Voluntary Public Access program is cut entirely.
The purpose of the Voluntary Access Program, according to the USDA, "is to encourage owners and operators of privately-held farm, ranch, and forest land to voluntarily make that land available for access by the public for wildlife-dependent recreation, including hunting or fishing, under programs implemented by state or tribal governments." This program, which are of great importance to sportsmen, will be completely eliminated by the recently approved bill.
These most recent $726 million in congressional cuts to conservation come on top of around $500 million in cuts in fiscal year 2011.