More Money, More Conservation
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Congress funded the Refuge System at more than $472 million for this fiscal year, 4 percent more than we received last year. And I can’t help but think that’s due in large measure to the support refuge Friends show year-in and year-out.
In the current fiscal climate, a 4 percent budget increase is a huge vote of confidence in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which welcomes more than 47 million visitors to wildlife refuges each year. We are able to welcome those visitors -- who make a measurable economic contribution to communities across the country -- because the nation’s Refuge Friends help us at every turn.
In short, we can’t do our work without their support.
While our current budget is short of fiscal 2010, it restored some of the cuts that came with the across-the-board sequestration, and it means that we won’t have to cut about 400 jobs. Indeed, we think this year’s budget will allow us to do some of the conservation work we’ve had to delay.
For example, we hope to expand effective programs like the Cooperative Recovery Initiative so we can address threats to wildlife species on and around wildlife refuges. We expect to expand the inventory and monitoring initiative that gives us critical information so we can deliver better conservation.
While the budget does not include money for any new visitor centers, we did get funding for a limited number of construction projects on nine refuges. We also got funding for land acquisition projects on such key ecosystems as the Crown of the Continent in Montana, Dakota Grasslands in North and South Dakota, Everglades Headwaters in Florida, and longleaf pine forests in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
This year’s budget hardly puts the Refuge System in a position of significant growth. But every budget is more than dollars and cents; it represents a commitment to a shared vision -- of healthy landscapes and abundant wildlife for those who support the National Wildlife Refuge System.
For more than a century, the Refuge System has been the hidden jewel among public lands. This year’s budget may well signal that national wildlife refuges are coming into the spotlight in the public’s consciousness – and that’s thanks to the work Friends do.
The Refuge System received funding for acquiring land in such key ecosystems as longleaf pine forests like this one at Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, SC.
Credit: Jack Culpepper/USFWS
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/