Missoulian: Sportsmen oppose federal cuts to conservation programs

Hunting and fishing advocates are rallying support to block federal funding cuts they claim unfairly single out conservation programs.

“These guys are happy to cut 0.5 percent of the federal budget, but won’t touch billions of dollars in business subsidies,” said Ben Lamb of the Montana Wildlife Federation during a conference call Wednesday. “The House took a butcher knife to a lot of these programs rather than using a scalpel.”

Leaders of Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Trout Unlimited said the House of Representative’s HR1 appropriations bill would hurt jobs as well as wildlife if the programs were cut as proposed. Congress must pass an appropriations bill by April 8, when the current stop-gap spending authority ends.

TRCP’s Bill Geer said the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses royalties from federal oil and gas leases for habitat projects, would be cut from $458 million last year to $50 million this year. That could derail projects like a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s effort to buy private land in Meagher County’s Tenderfoot Creek that blocks access to public land. The sportsmen’s group has provided the bridge loans to buy the land until an LWCF grant can transfer it to the U.S. Forest Service.

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